The Benefits of an Aquatic Environment
Over the past several years aquatic therapy has increasingly made its presence in the field of physical therapy. This type of therapy, which was once regarded with some concerns, is now offering more certifications in an attempt to increase its credibility. This sudden step towards utilizing aquatic conditions is primarily due to the many benefits it offers to a wide spectrum of patients. Due to the water’s specialized properties, aquatic therapy provides many more advantages than traditional therapy performed out of water. The physical properties that make up water, better allows physical therapists to assist in patient healing and exercise performance. This type of therapy is so unique because “there is no other method of exercising available that creates a zero impact environment that is found with aquatic exercise.” (Brunner) Overall, aquatic therapy has been found to be extremely useful in treating an extensive list of injuries and caters to all ages due to its many variables and conditions that traditional land therapy cannot offer.
Water possesses many special features that make it a perfect candidate for therapy. The first property is buoyancy, which is defined as an upward force that opposes gravity. This therapeutic quality “enables initiation of independent movement possibilities that are less likely to be achieved on land.”(Getz p. 926) This allows the injured patient to start functional weight bearing much earlier than land therapy would allow. Rick McAvoy, a physical therapist who has specialized in aquatic therapy for over 13 years states that, “buoyancy allows the client’s neuromuscular system to start coming in at the right time and with the correct pattern.”(McAvoy p. 6) In other words, patients are able to start plyometrics earlier and remain safer in the water, which means that their recovery time will shorten after surgery or injury. Since one of the main goals of aquatic therapy is to accelerate the patient's healing, this is a very important benefit to both the physical therapist and the patient. The buoyancy of water provides an unloading of the weight bearing joints of the spine, knee, and hips. Decreased weight bearing allows for less impact stress between the joints in the water as compared to on land. This can be beneficial for “those who cannot tolerate exercising on land due to joint pain because of arthritis, healing fractured bones or patients who are overweight.”(Inverarity) Water also provides assistance, along with resistance while exercising, so that progress can be made through various levels of activity while increasing strength.
There are three components of buoyancy. First, buoyancy assisted is when water is assisting the motion. An example of an exercise under these circumstances would consist of a patient walking in the water and performing straight leg raises. The water is assisting in hamstring lengthening. Another component would be...