If a care provider recently recommended aquatic therapy, it’s understandable that you may have a few questions. For instance, what are the benefits of aquatic therapy over regular “dry” therapy? What if you aren’t a strong swimmer? And is aquatic therapy really that effective?
We spoke with Kendal at Lexington Director of Rehab, Dr. Savleen Juneja to get the inside scoop on aquatic therapy in hopes of answering all of your questions. To begin, here are a few things you should know about aquatic therapy at Kendal at Lexington:
Defining Aquatic Therapy
Let’s start off with the basics. Simply put, aquatic therapy is physical therapy that takes place in the water. Yep — it’s that simple! At Kendal, aquatic therapy sessions occur in the community pool in the fitness center.
Safety and Security
Aquatic therapy sessions are conducted one-on-one with a physical therapist who is trained and certified in aquatics. This individualized attention ensures that exercises are performed safely and correctly, even for residents who may not be the strongest swimmers. “There is really nothing to fear,” says Dr. Juneja.
Conditions and Benefits
Aquatic therapy can be beneficial to a number of conditions, including: arthritis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, and cardiac and respiratory diseases. It can also help improve balance problems, swelling in your arms and legs, muscle weakness, chronic pain and obesity, as well as help you recover from a stroke, joint replacement or spinal cord injury.
So, just how does aquatic therapy benefit all of those conditions? Dr. Juneja says it all comes down to the four properties of water that make aquatic therapy effective: buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, viscosity and thermodynamics. Let’s break down each property to see how the benefits it provides during rehabilitation exercises.
This refers to the upward force acting in the opposite direction of gravity — or, put more simply, your ability to float in the water. “This has numerous therapeutic benefits,” Dr. Juneja says. “The most important benefit is it decreases weight bearing, which decreases stress on connective tissues.” By easing the strain of walking, the buoyancy of water helps support your body and reduce the fear of falling. Dr. Juneja says the positive effects of buoyancy are even more effective in deeper water. “In chest deep water, one’s weight is 25 percent of their normal weight,” she says. “This really benefits patients who have severe arthritis.”
Since we have fluids in our body, the counter pressure water exerts on the surface of our bodies helps improve circulation, decrease pain and reduce swelling. In fact, in order to enjoy the benefits of hydrostatic pressure, you don’t even need to do any exercises — simply submerging your body in the water and feeling the light pressure of being “held” by the molecules can still be beneficial. “The deeper the water is, the greater the pressure is,” Dr. Juneja says. “And the pressure is equal on all the surface of the body.”
The viscosity of the water is the resistance it provides. According to Dr. Juneja, this property is especially beneficial to patients with arthritis. “The viscosity of water helps strengthen your muscles without straining your joints,” she says. “Under water, since the weight is off the joint, the movement increases and you can have a greater range of motion in the water.” That’s why swimming and water aerobics provide such a great cardiovascular workout — your muscles are able to work hard without the stress of impact on your joints.
If you’ve ever taken a warm bath at the end of a long day, you’re already familiar with this beneficial water property. That’s because the temperature of the water can make a big difference in how you feel during aquatic therapy and how your body responds. For instance, the water at Kendal is kept warm — usually between 87 and 88 degrees. “Warm water exercises increase circulation, decrease pain and relax muscles,” Dr. Juneja says. This is also especially beneficial for arthritis patients and for stretching muscles.
So, what’s the next step if you do think aquatic therapy is right for you? Well, in order to receive therapy at Kendal, you need to first obtain a referral from your doctor. After that, you’ll be matched with an aquatic-certified therapist who will create an individualized exercise plan for you and your specific condition.
For more information, reach out to Dr. Juneja and the rehab team at Kendal at Lexington. Contact (540) 463-1910.