The Benefits of AquaStretch

Exercising in the water is ideal for people who need a low impact activity due to conditions such as arthritis and back pain. But did you know that the water is also a great place to heal from injuries and chronic conditions using a special therapy called AquaStretch?

AquaStretch is a myofascial release technique (a type of manual therapy) performed in shallow water. It is a combination of intuitive movement performed by the patient and gentle pressure from the physical or recreational therapist to release the underlying restrictions of the fascia (the thin tissue covering the muscle fibers).

Fascial adhesions occur when two or more layers of connective tissue bond to each other, preventing a normal gliding motion. These adhesions can cause pain and limited range of motion. Adhesions may also cause someone to compensate for the motion or move out of normal range. If left untreated, this may cause functional limitations, such as difficulty reaching, walking or maintaining position. Addressing the adhesions with AquaStretch can help to restore natural movement patterns, improve range of motion and reduce the stress to the area. This promotes improved function.

AquaStretch is effective because:

  • The body’s flexibility is enhanced in the water.
  • The warm water environment promotes muscle relaxation and decreased pain.
  • Muscles can sustain a stretch in water for longer periods of time because they are supported.
  • The buoyancy of the water counteracts gravity, resulting in decreased joint compression. 

Fascial adhesions typically occur in three situations:

  • Occupational or recreational aggravation
  • Genetically predisposed conditions, such as scoliosis or fibromyalgia
  • Utilizing poor posture or body mechanics when completing daily activities

AquaStretch can be used for people with these conditions to restore and or increase flexibility. The frequency and duration of AquaStretch depends on the individual’s tolerance and activity level. This technique is used in conjunction with aquatic exercise as clinically indicated on a case by case basis. As always, all precautions related to the particular injury or pathology are taken into account –  not all patients are appropriate for this treatment.

AquaStretch results can be immediate and often last for three to four times longer than other forms of exercise, and it can significantly reduce chronic pain or pain with movement. To maintain these gains it is important to support them with a prescribed exercise program from a therapist.

At Good Shepherd, many of our therapists are certified in AquaStretch by the Aquatic Therapy and Rehabilitation Institute (ATRI).  ATRI is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to the professional development of health-care providers in the area of aquatic therapy. Physical therapists can determine if AquaStretch is appropriate after performing an initial evaluation. Good Shepherd also offers wellness programs using AquaStretch for patients to maintain their gains after aquatic physical therapy is completed. For more information regarding AquaStretch, please contact us at 610-776-3220, option 2.

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