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Aquatic Therapy: The Techniques, Benefits, History And Cautions

Updated on May 16, 2017

What Is Aquatic Therapy?

Aquatic therapy involves a series of movement or treatments carried out in a temperature controlled pool. The treatments and exercises are performed while floating, partially submerged, or fully submerged in water and can be for relaxation, fitness or physical rehabilitation purposes.Aquatic therapy uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing and exercise performance.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Aqua Therapy?

Being in the water provides buoyancy or help and support to muscles and joints that are weak. It is easier to move when in water because there isn't added pressure or stress on the muscles, bones, or joints. The body feels lighter compared how it would feel while on land.The water provides lots of support if the user's joints and muscles are incapable of supporting their weight.

This type of physical movement is for in warm water as the warm water relaxes the muscles and allows the user to have an increased range of motion as they move their joints. It is generally performed in temperatures of 94 degrees. The high water temperature also enhances blood circulation helping individuals with muscle spasms and back pain.

The pressure of the water helps to circulate the blood throughout the body. Water exerts hydrostatic pressure. and this is known to reduce swelling in the joints. A reduction in swelling facilitates a reduction in joint tenderness, enabling an increase in the range of motion.


Who Can Benefit?

Aquatic therapy is ideal for the following conditions:

  • Athletic/cardiovascular training
  • Gait analysis
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Chronic back pain and lumbar stabilization
  • Foot, ankle or knee pain
  • Short-term therapy with transition to land-based rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Amputees
  • Stroke
  • Brain Injury
  • Arthritis management/joint pain

Some Techniques for Aqua Therapy Include:

  • Ai Chi: developed in 1993 by Jun Konno. This method uses diaphragmatic breathing and resistance training in water to relax and strengthen the body.
  • Aqua running: a form of cardiovascular conditioning, involving running or jogging in water. This is useful for injured athletes but also offers a low-impact aerobic workout. Aqua running is performed in deep water using a floatation device to support the head above water.
  • Burdenko Method: The Burdenko Method, originally developed by Soviet professor of sports medicine Igor Burdenko, is an integrated land-water therapy approach that develops , endurance, flexibility, speed and strength.coordination, balance, strength by using buoyancy equipment to challenge the centre of buoyancy by focussing on movement and differing speeds.
  • Watsu: a form of aquatic bodywork, originally developed in the early 1980s by Harold Dull. Here an aquatic therapist continuously supports and guides the person receiving treatment through a series of flowing movements and stretches that induce deep relaxation. This technique is used by physiotherapists for a wide range of orthopedic and neurologic conditions.
  • Yogalates: There is an emphasis on deep breathing, static poses and circular movements to create a continual fluid program. This technique aims at increased body awareness, strength, and range of motion, relaxation and an inward focus.

Should We Be Cautious?

Hydrotherapy is a safe form of treatment, especially when being guided by a trained specialist, but there are certain things to be mindful of with when participating in these treatments and exercises.

  • Caution should be exercised to remain safe from drowning.
  • Users should drink sufficient amounts of water to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • The buoyancy of the water can make activity seem easier, while it is actually working muscles very hard. There is a risk that the body could be pushed further than it physically feels
  • The warmth of the water may make a user feel dizzy.
  • If the pool is chlorinated, the user should shower after to avoid irritation to their skin.
  • Make sure that you’re seeking aquatic therapy from a certified professional. Usually, water therapy is performed by an occupational or physical therapist
  • It is always best to check with your physician before starting therapy to ensure that all necessary precautions are being taken.

Aquatic Therapy Has A Historical Past

The ancient Greeks and Romans bathed in hot springs thousands of years ago, enjoying the benefits of improved circulation and relaxation from immersion in the warm water.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, a therapeutic spa and medical centre was developed in Switzerland, where people would come from many miles to experience the healing power of water.

Many aquatic exercise methods that are currently popular, such as Ai Chi, Ai Chi Ne and aquatic yoga also have ancient roots. These methods share the common objectives of focus, breathing, core stability and strength to improve posture, strength and flexibility.

Ordinary Pool Exercises For Public Swim Sessions

Pools provide an ideal environment to exercise throughout the year. Pool exercises can also improve agility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. Many types of conditions greatly benefit from pool exercise, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, joint replacements, neurological, and balance conditions. The pool environment also reduces the risk of falls when compared to exercise on land.

Ordinary members of the public can enjoy the benefits of moving in water and therefore any public swim session can be an opportunity to move in the pool. There's a great article from Women's Fitness that showcase easy beginner exercises to do in the water yourself.

  • Before starting any pool exercise program, always check with your physical therapist or physician to make sure pool exercises are right for you.
  • Make sure that you’re seeking aquatic therapy from a certified professional. Usually, water therapy is performed by an occupational or physical therapist


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    • mchllhwgt profile image

      Michelle How 10 months ago

      I appreciate your feedback, thank you.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 10 months ago from Oklahoma

      Interesting overview.