Aquatic Therapy: Help for What Ails You
At Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center in Allentown, aquatic therapy is performed in a pool heated to 92 – 94 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimal temperature according to current research. As an aquatic physical therapist, I work with many people who are unable to tolerate physical therapy in a regular therapy gym. I see people overcome many painful conditions while experiencing the fun of the pool environment. It's very gratifying to see them get their strength back and ability to function outside the pool.
The most common conditions that respond well to aquatic physical therapy are:
- Chronic low back pain
- Fibromyalgia/chronic pain syndromes
- Obesity (usually in combination with another issue such as a total knee replacement)
- Balance/gait disorders
- Neurological disorders (including following a stroke, spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury)
- Disorders that limit weight bearing
Several properties of water make it great for treating these conditions, including:
- Buoyancy – This is the property of water that allows you to float as it counteracts gravity by a force proportional to the amount of your body that is submerged. This is the reason that as you go deeper and deeper into the water you feel lighter and lighter. This is especially important for those with difficulty bearing weight through their legs and back as it allows them to exercise without stressing the affected joints.
- Resistance – This refers to the resistance of the water as you move through it. As compared to moving through air, it is more difficult to move through water and this applies inherent conditioning to the muscles as you move through the pool. Resistance also slows movements, meaning patients with balance issues are provided an ideal environment to practice balance activities without fear of fall-related injuries.
- Warm water – The warm temperature of the water relaxes muscle spasms and increases the ability of muscles to stretch. Muscles that are warm also perform more efficiently.
The aspect of aquatic therapy at Good Shepherd that sets it apart from other facilities is the abundance of equipment available in the pool, including parallel bars for those who need assistance walking, a lift for those who need help getting in and out of the pool and treadmills and exercise bikes in the water.
There are also opportunities to continue aquatic exercise in our therapy pool after completing therapy since we offer fitness programs as well.
If you have one of the conditions described above and can benefit from aquatic therapy, please see your doctor for a referral and come join us.