Aquatic Therapy refers to treatments and exercises performed in water for physical rehabilitation purposes. Aquatic therapy uses water as a therapeutic benefit for individuals. The water acts as a form of resistance and aids in improving ones function, flexibility, range of motion, strength, balance, aerobic capacity and endurance, gait and locomotion, and pain management. Due to the buoyancy of the water and its non-gravitational forces, aquatic therapy offers a form of exercise which does not put stress on an individual’s joints or spine. Rather, it serves as a relaxation technique (Webmd, 2014).
Aquatic therapy encompasses a broad set of modalities, including aquatic exercise, physical therapy, and aquatic bodywork. Treatment may be passive, active-assisted, and/or active. Cooler water temperatures are used for high intensity exercises and overall body conditioning. Whereas, warmer water temperatures are used for mobility, flexibility and muscle relaxation control and management (Malstrom, 2013).
Aquatic therapy can be received in traditional outpatient rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and sports medicine clinics. Aquatic therapy is accessible in facilities that have a full-size or therapeutic-size pool (Human Kinetics, n.d.).
Target Groups and Populations
Target groups and populations who can benefit from aquatic therapy include, but are not limited to individuals with: arthritis and/or osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, orthopedic impairments, cerebral palsy, asthma, as well as poor self-esteem and body image (Broach & Dattilo, 1996).
Individuals experiencing fevers, infections and bladder/bowel incontinence are not encouraged to participate in aquatic therapy treatment interventions. Individuals with a fear of water and of drowning are also not encouraged to participate. Various neurological and cardiovascular conditions can be viewed as unsafe for some, whereas beneficial for others (Malstrom, 2013).
Styles and Versions
Aquatic therapy can be performed in various styles and versions. Different techniques and treatment forms can be used to achieve a better quality of life for individuals. Some of these styles and versions include:
- Hydrotherapy: is the application of water to initiate cure. All three forms of water (liquid, steam, ice) can be used therapeutically. The goal is to improve circulation and the quality of blood (Health Communities, 2014).
- Whirlpools: refers to a special kind of bathtub used in aquatic therapy. Whirlpools generate strategically placed air bubbles which allow for the massaging of muscles. This can provide either a gentle or deep tissue massage (Slideshare, 2014).
- Water aerobics: in-water exercise classes which range from low to high intensity workouts. Can come in a variety of formats such as zumba, step, kick boxing, yoga and tai chi (Cespedes, 2014).
Different pieces of equipment are used depending on the style of aquatic therapy being performed. Most...