Aqua Therapy: Prenatal to Post-Surgical

Traditional land therapy can be very difficult for a number of people. Either due to pain, difficulty with balance, or the inability to bear weight through a lower extremity. A great alternative if struggling with land therapy is the option of aquatic therapy. With the buoyancy water provides, it creates a great environment to do activities and exercises with little to no pain and allows people who have weight bearing restrictions to use their lower extremity with more freedom.

Our therapy pools ranges between 94-96 degrees Fahrenheit, and are 4’ deep with the option of making them a 5’ depth by removing floor tiles. There are a multitude of different step heights that can be utilized during exercises. We have normal ladder type steps to enter the pool but also have the option of a lift if a person is unable to get in via the stairs. We have the ability of using different sizes of flotation dumbbells, noodles, kickboards and a multitude of other different types of equipment to assist in different progressions for our treatment sessions.

There is no limit to who aquatic therapy can be beneficial for. We see athletes rehabbing from injuries/surgeries, people who have suffered injuries to lower back, hips, knees, ankles, feet, shoulders, and neck, as well as post-surgical patients once their incisions heal. We can see people who are pregnant, those with balance/coordination issues, people with Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, and more, the options are endless as are the benefits the pool offers.

What people can usually expect when it comes to aquatic therapy is, 30 minutes of exercise in the pool with a 15-30 minute session of manual therapy in the clinic with a goal of working into being able to do land exercises. There are also options of doing pool only, however this would still be a 30 minute session.

To focus on a couple of different people we may see in the pool, I’m going to discuss how aquatic therapy would beneficial be for our prenatal and post-surgical patients.

Prenatal Aqua Therapy
Pain is common but doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘dealt with’ during pregnancy. A lot of women experience sciatica/radiating pain, general low back pain, hip pain, pubic pain, joint pain, etc. These symptoms can be caused by multiple things including the hormone Relaxin, pressure and weight of the baby, a change in center of gravity, decreased core and overall muscle strength, increased fatigue and difficulty with land exercise, etc. Because of the nature of pregnancy, and the continued growth of the baby, it may sometimes be difficult to improve these symptoms. This is where the multitude of benefits from aquatic therapy comes in; the buoyancy of the water helps to protect joint movement and provides increased support of a continuously growing baby. The decrease of gravity and weight bearing along with the extra support from the buoyancy water provides helps to make exercise less fatiguing yet very beneficial. This gives a lot more options for patients who have difficulty with land exercise in order to support both mom and baby. Our focus is to work on mobility, strengthening and balance depending on the needs of the mother and what areas are the most problematic.

Post-Surgical Aqua Therapy

The next treatment population I’ll focus on is post-surgical. With this we can see a multitude of different people, whether they’ve had foot/ankle surgeries, knee, hip, lower back, neck and/or shoulders. Once the incision site is healed surgeons may suggest aquatic therapy. Even with protocols and restrictions patients have a greater ability to move a little more freely when in water. If there is a weight bearing restriction we are able to have patients in different water heights to comply with these restrictions. Submersion at the neck level eliminates approximately 90% of body weight, chest level approximately 75%, and approximately 50% body weight when submerged at the abdomen (around height of belly button). This allows for more movement for patients with restrictions and a smoother introduction to weight bearing much sooner than on land. We tend to do a lot of general strengthening and balance work due to deconditioning after surgery. Aquatic therapy after surgery in general helps to decrease swelling, improve ROM, to provide a safe environment as well as offering an off-loaded environment to decrease pain.
For all of our patients, not only post-surgical and prenatal, we find it beneficial to start with warm up movements, then we usually complete a mixture of balance, strengthening and mobility exercises and finish with general functional walking movements that help to continue improving the balance, strength and mobility we focused on individually earlier in our session.

Aquatic therapy in general can be beneficial to so many different people, no matter age or diagnosis. It helps patients improve in both the physical and mental aspects of rehabilitation, providing a safe environment to move and heal.

Fore more information, head to our Aqua Therapy page, where we have a great informational video from Mandy Miedema, the Director of Aquatic Therapy Services.

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