Hydrotherapy – What is it and what are the benefits?

Every, one in two Australian adults are not meeting the Australian Physical Guidelines. The rate of insufficient physical activity increases with age. Adults aged 65 years and over are not meeting 30 minutes of moderate activity a day – 69% of men and 75% of women recorded as insufficiently active. Meeting these guidelines can be increasingly difficult for the disabled population and the elderly. There can be numerous barriers – with the most commonly reported being, pain. Hydro (water) therapeia (healing) enables people to participate in exercise with reduced pain and many benefits, which will be explained in this post. Is your GP on your back constantly pushing you to increase your physical activity? Hydrotherapy might be the perfect solution for you.

What is Hydrotherapy/Aquatic Physiotherapy?

Hydrotherapy, also known as aquatic therapy or Aquatic Physiotherapy is physical exercise conducted within a specially designed heated pool to target and treat a wide spectrum of conditions.

This may include, but not limited to – osteoarthritis, general joint pain, pre/post operational rehab, neurological conditions, fibromyalgia or general fitness and wellbeing.

Exercise is performed within warm water heated up to 31-35 degrees and provides opportunity for individual progressions within a safe, comfortable and enjoyable environment. Hydrotherapy is significantly different from conventional swimming and aquarobics. The exercises and movements are catered for each individual client to address their discussed goals. Hydrotherapy is often less strenuous than land-based exercises, focusing on guided, controlled, pain–free movements with the ultimate goal of providing pain relief. Pools are selected to ensure there is appropriate access and ideal depth of water for each client.

What are the benefits of Hydrotherapy?

  • Reduces load bearing on joints: Research supports the concept that weight bearing is reduced by increasing the amount of the body submerged in water. When water is at navel depth the percentage of weight-bearing is 51.4%. When performing exercises in waist deep water the buoyancy of the water reduces your weight to less than half, reducing the impact on your joints.
  • Reduces muscle aches and tightness: The warmth of the water promotes muscle relaxation and reduces muscle spasm. Warm water can also cause vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), which can improve blood circulation, particularly to areas of pain and therefore quicken the healing process. The reduced muscle tightness can result in improved muscle flexibility.
  • Increases muscle strength: Hydrotherapy is the ideal environment to strengthen all muscles, including the notably weak muscles. Exercises performed on land can be modified to perform in water, using the water as resistance. Difficulty can further be altered through speed of movement, change of surface area with inclusion of floatation devices.
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness: The resistance as the limbs move through the water builds muscle and improves cardio-vascular fitness, as well as altering the duration of sessions.
  • Improves balance and reduces falls risk: Performing movements in the water provides an external challenge itself to assist in training balance. Balance exercises which you may be hesitant or fearful to perform on land, can be done in a safe water environment.
  • Stress relief: By participating in relaxing exercise in a safe environment guided by a health professional you can participate with zero worries! Experience the natural endorphins release, which reduce your perception of pain.

Percentage of weight-bearing approximates in water thanks to buoyancy! For e.g. if you weigh 80kg, your ‘weight’ at belly button deep water would be approximately 39kg!

Tips and Reminders for Hydrotherapy

  • Always be cleared by a doctor prior to attending hydrotherapy to ensure hydrotherapy is appropriate for you or whether additional safety precautions are required.
  • Often, in the pool, pain signals can be reduced or absent -you may overdo exercise or move into excessive weight bearing without be aware.
  • You don’t need to know how to swim to participate in hydrotherapy.
  • Make sure you advise your practitioner if you have taken any medication, which may alter your consciousness or pain level.
  • If you have a carer they can also come in the pool and learn!

To summarise, participation in hydrotherapy is safe, fun and have a long list of health benefits! Need to increase your exercise? Pain restricting your ability to participate in exercise? Tried all hands-on therapies for your pain with little improvement? Hydrotherapy might be the perfect solution for you!

What to do now?

If you need to increase your physical activity or want to experience the many benefits of hydrotherapy give us a call at Generation Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. Our Physiotherapists or Exercise Physiologists are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination and can meet you at an appropriate local pool or your own pool! Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.


Article Written By Marlisa Kwan

Physiotherapist – Sth Brisbane / Ipswich

She has a strong interest in delivering compassionate care to enable clients to reach their individual goals and improve their overall quality of life. Marlisa tailors treatment to each clients interests and believes active participation in your care is crucial to achieving physiotherapy goals.

Learn more about Marlisa here.


References:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Insufficient physical activity . Retrieved      .au/reports/risk-factors/insufficient-physical-activity

Doig, G. (2008). Evidence-based systematic review of the effectiveness of hydrotherapy in. Sydney: EvidenceBased.net.

Silva, L. E., Valim, V., Pessanha, A. C., Oliveria, L. M., Myamoto, S., Jones, A., & Natour, J. (2008). Hydrotherapy Versus Conventional Land-Based Exercise for the Management of Patients With Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Physical Therapy, 12-21.

Salzman, A. (2017). Aquatic Physiotherapy: What Does it Bring to the Therapeutic Table?. Ausmed. Retrieved from https://www.ausmed.com.au/cpd/articles/aquatic-physiotherapy

 

 

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