Aquatic Therapy for a Faster Recovery

 In Conditions & Treatments
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As a physical therapist, I often hear these words, “I hate to exercise!”  Well, have I got news for you, “Come on in the pool, the water is great!”  That’s right, physical therapy not only means land-based exercises, but also water-based exercises. That means you can exercise in the water. You may ask, why would I want to exercise in the water?

Let me count the benefits of Aquatic Therapy. The first benefit is water temperature. In warm water, the muscles relax and circulation in your feet and hands increase. The warm water stimulates the body’s awareness of itself and where it is in space, improving your balance, coordination and core strength. Guess what? You can’t fall in the water. This is wonderful news for those of us who are getting older, because the balance mechanism must be stimulated to improve our balance. The water provides a safe haven to stimulate that balance mechanism without risk of injury which leads to increased balance on land.

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The second benefit of water is the resistance it provides to the body on all planes, allowing your body to build muscle strength and endurance. You might think that you cannot get an intense workout in the water, but research shows otherwise. Due to the resistance of the water, it just seems like your body and cardiovascular system are not working as hard, but in reality it increases range of motion, decreases muscle spasms, improves circulation, increases cardiac output, decreases edema and improves efficiency of the respiratory system.

A third benefit of the water is its buoyancy, the tendency to float in water, which lessens the effects of gravity. This buoyancy provides you with the ability to move your body through a wider range of motion, improving flexibility. Even your heart and lungs get a beneficial workout, enhancing aerobic capacity, because the water pressure against the body makes the cardiovascular system work harder. When your body floats in the water, it relaxes decreasing the pain sensitivity, supports the joints and the body weight, providing you with a positive environment in which to move, thus improving your morale and your confidence to move without pain. If you add bubbles, turbulence and waves in the therapy pool, these allow the therapist to gently manipulate the client through the exercises with additional resistance. Swimming or walking in water reduces the pressure on your back and knees.

Aquatic therapy can be fun! Just add a net and ball for a quick game of volleyball, add a noodle or a paddle board and begin to kick your way to fun. Aquatic therapy, because it is low impact, can benefit anyone regardless of age or fitness level. Water therapy has been shown to help joint pain and stiffness, muscle spasms, back pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, to name just a few conditions.

The fourth benefit of water therapy is for the athlete who is looking to get back into the game. The water can help the athlete extend their time in their chosen sport including marathon runners, skiers, climbers, baseball players, basketball players and soccer players.  The aquatic environment allows the athlete to maintain a high level of cardiovascular fitness and core stability that they may not be able to handle on land. Another situation is where you have a condition in which you are to be partial weight bearing, due to an accident or other injury. The water will provide protection for that joint while it heals, yet the muscles can perform healthy movement, without putting undue stress on the joint.

Therefore, with all these benefits why would someone not want to come on into the water and get strong and active?

The Camas Center Clinic, located in Cusick WA, is in the NE corner of the 77,000 sq. ft. Camas Center for Community Wellness. Our physical therapy clinic is one of the very few in our region to offer both aquatic and land based therapy. The therapy pool offers a private and warm location with friendly staff to help you heal.  We accept Medicaid, Medicare, Tri-West, VA Choice and most commercial insurances.  The Camas Center Clinic is open to the general public and is proudly owned and operated by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians.  For inquiries please call 509-447-7111 or come visit us in person at 1821 N LeClerc Rd #1, Cusick, WA.

by Karen L. Lee, MPT, Camas Center Clinic

Karen L. Lee, MPT, holds a BS in General Science from Portland State University and a MS in Physical Therapy from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. Her continuing education includes The McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, Interactive Fitness Trainers of America Aquatic Certification, LSVT BIG Parkinson’s Certification, and varied neurological, sports medicine, rehabilitation and orthopedic coursework. Karen is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Washington State Physical Therapy Association and Aquatic section. She is also an APTA credentialed Clinical Instructor and has been practicing her profession for 26 years in the Home Health and Outpatient settings. She seeks to provide her patients’ a conduit of health through aquatic therapy, exercise and healthy lifestyle education.

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