As its name implies, aqua therapy consists of a rehabilitative exercise program that is performed in a pool under the guidance of a physical therapist (PT). It uses the physical properties of water to help patients heal from a variety of medical conditions and/or enhance their exercise performance.
One of aqua therapy’s benefits is that it uses the buoyancy of water to decrease the amount of weight bearing, thereby reducing the force of stress on a patient’s joints and relieving pain due to conditions such as arthritis, fractured bones, and obesity. Also, the viscosity (thickness) of water provides resistance that enables muscle strengthening without the need for weights.
Guidelines for Aqua Therapy
If your PT recommends aqua therapy and you are new to this form of treatment, here are some guidelines that will help you get the most out of your sessions:
Just because you’re wading up to your chest in water doesn’t mean your body is hydrated. You still need to drink water, preferably eight 8-ounce glasses (about 2 liters), or half a gallon, per day. Remember, therapy in a pool is just as taxing as on land, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water on hand near the edge of the exercise pool and take scheduled breaks to quench your thirst.
Warm up, Cool Down, and Stretch.
Any form of exercise should be preceded by a warm-up to avoid cramping or injury, and water therapy is no different. Due to the hydrostatic pressure of water, lactic acid is consistently pushed through your bloodstream and can result in reduced soreness after a workout. Nevertheless, your muscles are working just as hard or even harder than on land, so it is important to stretch before and after aquatic therapy.
Maintain an Underwater Gait Pattern Similar to a Pattern Out of the Pool.
Due to its natural viscosity, water creates a drag on your limbs as you move through it. That being the case, avoid changing your stride length and pattern when walking or running underwater. This extra effort helps you build leg strength and improve your balance. Keep your walking and running movements steady and straight with your head upright and your arms swinging normally.
Broaden your Pool Therapy Activities.
Swimming, wading, underwater running, and aqua aerobics are excellent ways to reap cardiovascular benefits. That being the case, don’t confine your therapy to just walking. Make your underwater workout specific to your daily activities. For example, if you are athletically inclined, incorporate sport-specific training into your routine to maintain your skills. Or, if you are merely looking to keep up with household tasks, equipment such as barbells, water running belts, and aquatic paddles can be useful in using the resistance of the water to improve your balance and strength.
Don’t Abandon your Land Training.
Just because aquatic training puts less stress on your muscles and is less exhausting than a land workout doesn’t mean it should be your only form of exercise. The two actually go hand in hand. Adding land training to your routine can help you realize greater gains from water exercise. Also, the combination of aquatic exercise and resistance training has been shown to increase muscle mass more than just aquatic exercise alone or land exercise combined with resistance training. Consult with your PT on whether supplemental land training is right for you.
Aqua Therapy in Mount Ayr, Iowa
The Ringgold County Hospital Rehabilitation Department provides physical, occupational, and speech therapy that is dedicated to helping individuals regain and maintain their physical and cognitive function.
Our highly trained rehabilitation therapists can teach you exercises designed to help you heal better, faster, and more completely. To find out more about our personalized rehab services, including aqua therapy, call our Rehabilitation Department at (641) 464-4428, or request an appointment using our convenient online form now.