Whilst a lot of treatment fads will come and go, today we’re looking at a method of treatment first regarded as beneficial in the days of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome – Hydrotherapy (aka Aquatic Physiotherapy)! Things evolve and hydrotherapy is now backed by research to help relieve pain and aid recovery for many conditions. In today’s blog, we’re going to look at how hydrotherapy works, its benefits and whether it’s right for you.
How does it work?
The buoyancy of water reduces weight bearing stress on the body. This helps rehabilitation from injury or surgery, and can facilitate exercise for those overweight or obese. It allows for free and fluid movement – a means of removing the load-bearing strain which may be a limiting factor when exercising on land. Weight bearing can slowly be increased by moving to shallower water.
Density of water
The increased density of water, compared with air, increases resistance on the body when pushing against it. With respect to movement and exercise, this works your muscles the same way weights do on land. The faster the movement through the water, the greater the resistance. The use of pool weights, noodles and kickboards further increases resistance in water!
Image credit: Health NSW
Turbulence (chaotic movements of water) in water creates an unstable environment, which makes the core muscles work hard to maintain balance and stability in the water.
Hydrotherapy pools are heated to approximately 34 degrees. This increased temperature, along with hydrostatic pressure of being in water, is great for improving circulation and decreasing swelling. The comfortable water temperature contributes to the therapeutic benefits of moving in water, helping to promote relaxation of muscles and aid in pain relief.
What conditions does hydrotherapy help?
Hydrotherapy can benefit a wide range of conditions including;
- Back pain
- Post knee and hip replacement surgery
- Balance / coordination difficulties
- Shoulder pain
- Fibromyalgia and chronic pain
- Neurological conditions: cerebral palsy, brain injuries, stroke, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s Disease
- Rehabilitation post fractures
- Pre and post orthopaedic surgery
What are the benefits of hydrotherapy?
- improves flexibility and movement
- relieves pain and muscle spasm
- increases muscle strength
- improves posture, balance and co-ordination
- improves post-surgery or injury recovery
- enables walking when unable to weight-bear on land
- improves cardio-vascular fitness
- suitable for all ages
- it’s fun!
Am I okay to exercise in a hydrotherapy pool?
Like all forms of exercise, there are a range of contraindications and precautions to consider before undertaking a hydrotherapy program.
Precautions and contraindications include:
- recent heart attack
- unstable heart conditions
- skin/wound infections
- uncontrolled epilepsy
- uncontrolled diabetes
- recent neurological event
- respiratory conditions
- renal conditions
- hypo or hypertension
- lack of water and swimming confidence
- swallowing difficulties
- recent radiotherapy treatment
- vision or hearing impairments
- middle ear problems
Tips to remember…
- Speak to your Physio or Doctor before commencing hydro. Be sure to disclose any health conditions and medications so your suitability to hydro can be accurately assessed
- Keep your fluids up. Sip on water before, during and after hydrotherapy to avoid dehydration. You would be surprised how much you sweat when exercising in water, in addition to the diuretic affect of deep water immersion
- Take it easy! Start with approximately 30-45 minutes with your first few sessions. Once you start to feel your program is getting easier, progressively build up from there!
What happens at the start?
All new patients entering hydrotherapy need to see a physiotherapist first for a land-based assessment before going into the pool. This allows the physiotherapist to understand your presentation, assess your condition and determine what you are hoping to achieve by attending the pool. We will then discuss suitable times to commence hydrotherapy with Revive.
We hope today’s blog encourages you to consider using hydrotherapy as part the management of your injury or condition. The team at Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates have extensive experience in taking hydrotherapy sessions and writing up hydrotherapy programs. If you have any further questions about what is involved or whether hydrotherapy is suitable for you, please feel free to make an online enquiry or call us on 9391 2600 to speak with one of our Physiotherapists.