Aquatic therapy is physical therapy conducted in a warm water pool. Water provides buoyancy and warmth, which supports joints in the spine and limbs to decrease pain and stiffness during exercise. Exercise in the water provides resistance for improved strength, endurance and flexibility.
Aquatic therapy is appropriate for patients who have osteoarthritis or chronic pain, are recovering from surgery or injury or have a neurological condition such as stroke.
Patients who participate in aquatic therapy generally spend an entire session in the pool with physical therapy or occupational therapy staff. Patients receiving aquatic therapy may also participate in non-pool activities.
Patients prepare for the pool in a locker room and enter the pool by a staircase or lift if they cannot use the stairs. Therapists typically work with the patient in the water to guide their exercises. Exercises vary and treatments last 30 to 60 minutes.
Prior to starting aquatic therapy, patients complete a screening questionnaire to make sure aquatic therapy is right for them. Aquatic therapy is not right for patients with open wounds, severe immunosuppression, fear of water, severe heart disease and heat-intolerance.