Aquatic therapy also known as hydrotherapy is becoming popular as an alternative to traditional land-based therapies. It is suitable for all the fitness levels, for children as well as for adults. Physical and sports therapists are using it as a preventative maintenance tool.
Aqua therapy is a physical therapy performed in water by qualified experts and aquatic trainers. Different types of treatment exercises are involved in the therapy that provides recovery, relaxation, fitness, rehabilitation, and many therapeutic benefits. It is popular for musculoskeletal and neurological problems.
Aqua therapy is performed in warm water. The pool is the safest environment to perform specific exercises. The temperature of the water varies according to the condition of a specific patient.
- The temperature for athletes should be in the range from 26 °C to 28 °C
- The temperature range for neurological and arthritis patients is 29 °C to 31 °C
When you exercise in water, it provides less physiological resistance as compared to the land.
Natural properties of water beneficial for therapy
To understand how aqua therapy works it is important to understand the natural properties of water.
Water possesses certain natural properties that create an ideal environment to perform therapeutic exercises which are difficult to perform on land. The injured and disabled persons can perform in water with much ease and comfort as compared to land.
The ideal properties of water that help perform exercises when the water is being used as a therapeutic agent are
- Buoyancy force
- Hydrostatic pressure
- Natural viscosity
The buoyancy force is also known as the upthrust force. It is an upward force exerted by water when the object is partially or fully immersed in water. It opposes the weight of an object. It resists the motion of objects from the surface and assists the motion of an object towards the surface.
So, when you enter underwater you feel an apparent loss of weight. This buoyant force decompresses every joint. You feel so light and can easily perform vigorous exercises with little impact on joints.
- This force reduces the pressure on joints and can be beneficial for edema and joint pains.
- It also helps in reducing the friction between the articular cartilage of joints.
Hydrostatic pressure is exerted equally on all parts of the surfaces of an immersed object by the thrust of molecules of a liquid. This pressure increases with the density and depth of liquid.
When the body is immersed in water it produces two effects.
- The body fluids would move from the extremities to the central cavity. The blood circulation would first increase in muscles, then in the abdominal cavity, and finally in the heart and chest cavity
- The chest wall would be compressed and work of breathing would increase
If you are a heart or lung patient, you should avoid in-depth exercises.
Viscosity of water
The viscosity of water provides resistance that is greater than that experienced on land while movement. This Natural property can be used for muscle strengthening and rehabilitation.
Effect of warm water during therapy
Water can retain heat for a longer period. It can transfer heat easily. These properties of warm water are beneficial for therapy as they produce some physiological effects.
- Warm water dilates superficial blood vessels, activates sweat glands, and removes toxins from the body.
- It relaxes the body
- It helps decrease joint pain
- Warm water diminishes the sensitivity of sensory nerve endings
Different types of popular aqua therapies
Aqua therapy is performed at health spas, physical therapy clinics and sometimes it can be performed at home as well. Different types of appliances used for therapy are Full body immersion tanks, whirlpool baths, body-specific tubs, cold and hot water compresses.
Popular aqua therapies are:
1. Aquatic exercises
Many different programmed exercises are being performed in a pool of hot water or cold water with the help of a qualified therapist. Underwater exercises provide lesser pressure on joints and help in pain management. Aquatic exercises can be performed before starting a physical land exercise program as they are easy to perform.
Balneotherapy is being offered in spas, wellness centers, and hot spring resorts. It involves the bath in mineral-rich hot water and is famous to treat numerous health problems such as blood pressure, arthritis, and respiratory disorders.
3. Sitz baths
A plastic large tub filled with warm water is used to treat different conditions such as hemorrhoids, fistulas, and other anorectal conditions.
4. Therapeutic baths
Therapeutic baths involve the use of soaking in hot tubs that contain therapeutic agents like Epsom salt, dead sea salt, herbs, and aromatherapy oils. Mud baths are an example of therapeutic baths. These baths are for treating skin conditions, emotional stress, and joint problems.
Watsu is also known as water shiatsu. It is hydrotherapy that involves stretching, massages and acupressure while you float in a pool of warm water. It promotes physical relaxation, mental relaxation and has a calming effect on the whole body and organs by generating the energy flow.
6. Whirlpool hydrotherapy
If you need an improvement in circulation, mobility, and comfort after the surgery or an illness. Whirlpool therapy is the answer for you. It uses warm water or sometimes cold water in a tub. You immerse your body or whole body in the bathtub.
Benefits of Aqua therapy
Aqua therapy provides a lot of benefits. Persons of all ages can benefit from it.
- It restores range of motion and flexibility during the early rehabilitation phase.
- Once your normal body functions restore followed by the early rehabilitation benefits, it further provides resistance training
- Helps in regaining balance and coordination
- Edema reduction
- pain management
- Improved range of motions
- Provides relaxation
- Improve circulation
- Helps in skin diseases
- Helps for strains, sprains, and fatigue
- Helps in re-educating paralyze muscles
You should avoid aqua therapy if you have
- Open wounds
- Seizure issue
- Breathing issues
Aquatherapy allows you to benefit from therapy and to get involved in a recreational activity or enjoying nature at once. People of all age groups can benefit from this therapy.