Getting back on the move after major surgery, illness or a chronic health condition is no easy task. Physical therapy is the solution for many patients who benefit from expert assessment of their musculoskeletal function and tailored treatment regimens designed to address their particular needs.
Sometimes, pain, weakness and balance problems can make the usual physical therapy exercises too difficult and, for those patients, a warm-water therapy pool may be the answer.
Aquatic (water-based) therapy offers low-impact rehabilitation that jumpstarts recovery by taking pressure off bones, joints and muscles - and you don't need to be able to swim to benefit from it. As with land-based physical therapy, each patient is carefully evaluated and given an individualized treatment program.
The tools of the aquatic therapist are the buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, fluid resistance and warmth provided by the water. The elevated water temperature and buoyancy create an inviting, low-stress environment for improving mobility - especially helpful to those with back pain, leg pain, stiff joints, and those who are overweight.
Buoyancy helps alleviate pain and facilitates increases in endurance, strength and range of motion while decreasing stress on the ankles, knees, hips and back.
Fluid resistance provides exercise opportunities that precisely target deficit areas and allow patients to make the most of their abilities.
Aquatic therapy can be used to treat pain and dysfunction from joint replacements, osteoporosis, arthritis, tight joints and muscles, muscle weakness, poor motor coordination, fibromyalgia, edema and more. Certain neurological conditions, such as strokes, Parkinson's disease and others, also can be effectively treated in a therapy pool.
Therapy pools can be equipped with underwater treadmills, specialized flow units to create and control fluid resistance, and mechanical lifts to assist patients in and out of the water. Floatation devices, weights and other exercise aids also can be used to create efficient and effective treatment.
The goal of aquatic therapy always is to improve function on land.
Therapy pools are used effectively as a stepping stone - once a patient can move successfully in the water, he or she typically will be transitioned into a land-based therapy program. The accommodating aquatic environment makes the most of patients' current abilities and helps transition them gently and comfortably to their normal daily activities.
If you feel you may be a candidate for aquatic therapy, talk with your health care provider about the possibilities.
Susquehanna Health offers aquatic therapy programs at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital's Physical and Aquatic Therapy Center in Wellsboro, at the Costello Center in Williamsport and at the Eastern Lycoming YMCA in Muncy.
Westlake is a certified aquatic physical therapist at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital.