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What Is Aquatic Physiotherapy?

By Jennifer Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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Aquatic physiotherapy, also referred to as hydrotherapy, is a type of physiotherapy that involves using water during physical therapy. The water can provide more resistance for certain exercises and reduce the amount of gravity, reducing body weight. Water therapy also reduces exercise impact that leads to discomfort.

Pools and therapy tubs can be beneficial for patients who require physical therapy but have limited mobility. Patients who have difficulty walking or have injuries to their legs that limit the amount of stress that can be placed on them can benefit from aquatic physiotherapy. This form of therapy can also be used to help strengthen muscles that are weak. Water therapy exercises are beneficial for people who suffer from a variety of illnesses that affect the heart and circulation, such as obesity, heart attack or stroke, and diabetes.

One of the biggest benefits of water physiotherapy for patients is pain relief and muscle relaxation. Aquatic physiotherapy is performed in warm water that almost matches body temperature. The warmth of the water helps relax the muscles and soothe painful areas. A patient can experience an almost whole body relaxation. Additionally, the buoyancy helps take stress off injured areas.

Aquatic physiotherapy utilizes many of the same physical therapy exercises as those done out of water. Specific exercises and stretches are combined to create plans that are tailored to each patient. Due to the benefits this type of physiotherapy can provide, it can also be used for children who have disabilities or are delayed in some areas of development. Water therapy can be customized to help children with balance, motor skills, and walking.

In addition to other areas that aquatic physiotherapy can be used to treat, it can also be modified to teach water safety skills and swimming. Water safety skills can help with range of movement and coordination. Aquatic physiotherapy can also be used to teach a modified way to swim for patients with disabilities or injuries that prohibit full range of movement.

Although aquatic physiotherapy can be beneficial for most patients, it can be dangerous for some. People who have open wounds or infection, fever, or severe heart problems should not undertake water therapy. The heat from the water may also be dangerous for people on certain medications, such as those for high blood pressure. It is important to make sure the physical therapist is aware of any existing or past medical problems and all medications a patient is taking.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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