6 Ways Aquatic Therapy Can Help You
Water plays an essential role in our lives. This transparent fluid made up of three atoms, one oxygen and two hydrogen, forms the major constitution of our human body. We all know we need to drink water in order to survive and I believe that we should all drink more of it to lead a healthier life. But when an injury or ailment arises, we as medical professionals have learned that getting into the water can have a major impact on the ease and speed of recovery that one might endure.
From a basic science standpoint there are several principals that make the utilization of water an effective tool in rehabilitation and recovery. Speaking from a comfort standpoint, who hasn’t felt the relief that one gets after a long day of walking, standing or running around by simply soaking in a nice warm bathtub? Personally, the appearance of water alone can make me feel more relaxed and comfortable. Nothing eases my worries and helps me find some calm more than the view of a beautiful lake or the movement and sound of the ocean. There is something esoteric about water that just makes me feel better.
When we speak of aquatic therapy, we are referring to the physical use of water and the utilization of it’s properties to make a persons recovery both more comfortable and quicker. Aquatic therapy refers to water-based treatments or exercises of therapeutic intent, in particular for relaxation, fitness, recovery and physical rehabilitation. Treatments and exercises are performed while floating, partially submerged, or fully submerged in water. Aquatic therapy procedures utilize constant attendance by a trained therapist, and are performed in a specialized temperature-controlled pool.
Let me share 6 principles of water and aquatic therapy that will assist you with your pain, recovery, exercise or rehabilitation:
There is Buoyancy
This is an upward force exerted by a fluid that opposes the weight of an immersed object. In a situation of fluid statics the Archimedes Principle applies as the net upward buoyancy force is equal to the magnitude of the weight of fluid displaced by the body. In other words, when a person is immersed in water, the individuals body weighs approximately the percentage of the depth that they are immersed. For example is a person is immersed to their waist then there is about 50% of the forces exerted on their lower body.
Buoyancy can provide support or resistance. In supporting a person, it acts to decrease the forces of gravity placed on weakened limbs and reduce the stress on painful joints and bones. There is also less strain on the muscles and joints, requiring less effort to move under water. Buoyancy can be used to challenge stronger muscles and offer resistance when a floating device like a flutter board or webbed mitten is pushed or held submerged under water.
Plus Hydrostatic Pressure:
Pascal’s Law defines hydrostatic pressure as fluid pressure exerted equally on all surface areas of an immersed body at rest at a given depth. This law applies to aquatic therapy as the pressure helps return blood to the heart, causing it to be a more efficient machine under less pressure.
This helps the heart to circulate blood from the limbs to the heart thereby decreasing swelling in the feet and ankles. Once swelling is reduced, joint tenderness and range of motion can improve.
And Relative Density:
This is the relation of the mass of an object to the mass of an equal volume of liquid at standard temperature and pressure. This helps to determine whether something will sink. If something is denser than water it will sink. Swollen extremities have higher proportion of fluid since the body produces and retains that fluid. Simply put, swollen limbs tend to float and it will therefor take less effort to raise weak and swollen extremities than it does to lower them in water. This serves a dual purpose of assisting with range of motion in one direction and strengthening in the other.
Don’t forget Fluid Resistance and Viscosity:
Fluid Resistance is the force that opposes the motion of an object through a fluid. Viscosity is the characteristic of the fluid that defines the amount of resistance that it will exert. In aquatic therapy, the viscous nature of the water, while not significant compared to other fluids like molases, will nonetheless provide resistance. Basically a person has to push their way through the water and the water will slow them down. Fluid resistance is beneficial in that it can support a person and hold them in position when still (imagine many people holding you up in all directions) and will offer resistance when they are moving (those same people won’t get out of the way when you try to move). This resistance makes water the perfect environment to perform balance exercises. Further, because the resistance is in all directions, fluid resistance increases the sensory awareness and strength of muscles equally in all of the muscles submersed in the water.
And of course Turbulence:
This is the random motion of the water molecules as they are exposed to disturbance. A person or their limbs will create changing pressures and turbulence as it moves through the water. Further, our paddle wheel design in the Swimex pool creates a further turbid environment in the water. The effects of turbulence can provide a therapeutic benefit of massage, resistance and can stimulate the activation of core muscles in response to the fracas caused by the water.
But most importantly it’s Fun and Engaging:
None of the above principles can replace the fact that exercising in water is simply different. It is an engaging environment because of its novelty and this helps with adherence to the exercise program. It is comfortable and less painful which helps to ease the stress and fatigue of exercising. With the right aquatic therapist the results can be tremendous. Remember to keep it fun and focus on your goals. Don’t just dip your toes in the pool, get your recovery moving in the right direction by getting right in!
If you want to try our special Swimex Pool and Aquatic Therapy program contact us today!