What Is Aquatic Therapy?

Sara Schmidt

Aquatic therapy, or hydrotherapy, is the process of using water as a medium for physical exercise or post-injury rehabilitation. Aquatic therapies are particularly helpful for low impact training, and are often used to treat arthritis, obesity, and other conditions. The process is also known as water or pool therapy.

Aquatic therapy uses water for physical exercise or rehab.
Aquatic therapy uses water for physical exercise or rehab.

Both elderly and overweight people often turn to aquatic therapy in order to begin a healthy lifestyle. This low-impact exercise allows them to move their bodies, burn calories, and lose weight without a high risk of injury. People with arthritis find hydrotherapy particularly helpful as the water can both ease pain, as well as allow joints to operate more easily while submerged.

Elderly people often turn to aquatic therapy to bgin a healthy lifestyle.
Elderly people often turn to aquatic therapy to bgin a healthy lifestyle.

When using water as an exercise medium, weights may be used but are not required. The water itself is considered resistance material, providing each exerciser with automatic weights that are neither cumbersome to carry nor as hard on the joints as typical weights. Another benefit of using aquatic therapy as physical exercise is that it removes the weight from impaired joints as they are submerged, providing the exerciser with more agility and freedom of movement than offered outside of the water.

Entire water clinics that are dedicated to aquatic therapy are available in many areas. Water therapy is also conducted in swimming pools, whirlpools, and most other bodies of water. Individuals can perform some types of aquatic therapy within their personal bathtubs as well. Aquatic therapy is often conducted with the aid of a physical therapist, though many individuals may complete their own therapy alone after a few initial sessions with a specialist.

Depending upon the type and goal of the aquatic therapy, the temperature and conditions of the water can vary from treatment to treatment. While both warm and cold water can help reduce pain, warm water results in an increased flow of blood, while cold water reduces the flow of blood. Though people who wish to reduce the inflammation in their bodies may opt for cold water treatments, using warm water in a workout can help increase the exerciser's complete range of motion.

Many different types of aquatic therapy exist. Therapists often have their own preferred methods to use with specific conditions. They may treat fractured bones with a specific workout or method, for example, while using a relaxation technique, such as Watsu water massage, to help relieve stress or painful areas of the body in general.

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