Aquatic therapy is performed in the water, aiming to rehabilitate patients after injury or those with chronic illness. It uses the resistance of water instead of weights, taking excess pressure off joints for better outcomes.
Aquatic therapy is the evidence-based and skilled practice of physical therapy in an aquatic environment. Aquatic therapy includes but is not limited to treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, health, wellness and fitness of patient/client populations in an aquatic environment with or without the use of assistive, adaptive, orthotic, protective, or supportive devices and equipment.
The unique properties of the aquatic environment enhance interventions for patients/clients across the age span with musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular/pulmonary, and integumentary diseases, disorders, or conditions.
Patients who have had difficulty with traditional therapy often show improvement with aquatic therapy.
Why is water sometimes better for therapy?
. Aquatic therapy can make exercise easier and less painful, because the forces on weight-bearing joints are reduced.
. The warmth of the water helps reduce pain by relaxing tight or spasm muscles and increasing blood flow.
. The water resistance and special jets help patients strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular performance.
Aquatic therapy is ideal for the following
. Arthritis management/joint pain
. 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
. Brain Injury
Aquatic therapy interventions are designed to improve or maintain:
. aerobic capacity/endurance conditioning
. balance, coordination and agility
. body mechanics and postural stabilization
. gait and locomotion
. muscle strength, power, and endurance Interventions used in Aquatic therapy include, but are not limited to, therapeutic exercise, functional training, manual therapy, breathing strategies, electrotherapeutic modalities, physical agents and mechanical modalities using the properties of water and techniques unique to the aquatic environment.
What is the difference between aquatic physical therapy and aquatic exercise?
The difference is that aquatic physical therapy requires the “skilled service” of an Occupational Therapist or a Physical Therapist:
. the clinical reasoning and decision making skills of a OT/PT;
. the patient has impairments and/or disabilities which can be minimized or eliminated with aquatic physical therapy; and
. the patient has potential to maximize functional goals/outcomes to improve quality of life and ease burden of care.
. the implementation of such therapy must comply with all standards of care which impact all other treatment services.
Aquatic Exercise is the utilization of water for the implementation of quality of life, fitness-related or general health-related goals; can be delivered in a group setting that includes multiple clients and diagnoses; can be delivered by an individual other than a licensed therapist; and usually has little or no accompanying paperwork, insurance involvement or written follow-up information required.
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