PT eDigest

PTD0914_AquaticPhysical Therapy: Wet or Dry?

When you are in pain, floating around weightless in a pool of warm water—the rationale behind aquatic therapy—sounds appealing. Therapeutic water programs allow us to restore function and strength without having to fight gravity, while bringing the benefits of the natural pain-relieving aspects of water. For those who have weight-bearing restrictions or balance issues, aquatic therapy can be a lifesaver.

Some conditions that make it difficult or painful for patients to stand or sit for long periods of time can wreak havoc on a rehabilitation program. If you suffer from arthritis, chronic pain or neurological problems that make balance and movement difficult, the buoyancy of water can reduce the stress on your joints, and the hydrostatic pressure can relieve swelling and inflammation.

Is physical therapy always more effective if it is performed in a pool? The answer is no, unless you are someone who is physically unable to perform exercises on land. The reason for this is pretty simple: You are not a fish. The goal of physical therapy is to help you function in your daily activities. Unless you are a swimming instructor, you do not spend your day in the water.

This is not to say aquatic therapy is not effective, because it can be. But aquatic therapy can also be costly (not all insurers will cover it) and difficult if you do not live near a pool or do not feel comfortable in the water. Aquatic therapy can be a great option that can also be used as a complement to traditional physical therapy; for example, therapists can start a rehabilitation program in water and move to land once the patient is ready.

If aquatic therapy is not an option, don’t worry—anything we can do in water, we can do on land. A good therapeutic program takes into account an individual’s needs, lifestyle and physical capabilities. Talk to us about whether aquatic therapy is right for you to achieve the best possible exercise routine.

Download the PTe Digest for August 2014