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SCIENCE HAPPENINGS March 2020

The Benefits of Aquatic Physical Therapy
by Amy Anderton


Physical therapy is a great tool to use when recovering from an injury, surgery, or working on balance or pain management. Often people think of therapy happening in an outpatient clinic or the therapist coming to your home to work with you. Another option, often overlooked, is aquatic therapy. It can benefit all ages and ability levels and has some built in perks just from being in the water!

Weight bearing: When in the water your weight is reduced about 50% at waist level, 70% at chest level, and 90% at shoulder level. People who have had an injury or surgery that limits their weight bearing on a joint can adjust to the depth they are seeking to obtain the proper weight on that joint and do their exercises with a more normalized movement pattern. As well, those who are not able to tolerate therapy on land can practice at the buoyancy that helps them move best. The buoyancy also reduces chronic pain in many patients, making it easier to move without feeling so heavy. Being in the water creates less stress on joints while benefiting from your movement. Patient’s recovering from a stroke or with spinal injuries can also benefit from simulated weightlessness.

Physiological changes: When submerged in the water your heart becomes more efficient. Your blood centralizes, which creates stronger contractions from the heart (more blood pumped out with each beat) and a decrease in pulse rate. The lymphatic system is also activated due to hydrostatic pressure and water massaging your limbs with each movement. This can be beneficial to help with swelling and overall conditioning.

Resistance & core: With each movement in the water you experience light resistance. If instructed properly you can adjust the resistance with your movements to fit your goal. In order to maintain an upright posture in the water your hip, core, and spinal stabilization muscles kick in. There is also a current in most pools; this means that simply standing still in the water with upright posture is a workout.

Warm water: Technically to be a therapy pool the water temp should be 88* or warmer. The warm water can sooth arthritic joints, and help relax and open up people with spasticity or hypertonic conditions such as cerebral palsy. Currently the Moab Recreation & Aquatic Center designates a lane during lap swim times to allow people who want to schedule a therapy session with a therapist or come do their therapy independently. The citizens of Moab could greatly benefit from a warm water therapy pool designated to PT and therapeutic classes such as Ai Chi, Aqua Yoga, Arthritis classes and more. The healing potentials and good it would do for our community would be forever recognized.

Prenatal: Many women who are in their last trimester with a breach baby are prescribed water therapy by their doctor to encourage the baby to flip. A perceived change in the body’s gravity can encourage a fetal turn into standard position.

 

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