Holly is an accredited Exercise Physiologist working for Road to Recovery, a mobile service providing specific exercise therapy to people within their home and the community. Holly graduated from Sydney University with a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology. She provides services to clients with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as the older population. Find out more about Road to Recovery here

What is hydrotherapy and how does it work?

Hydrotherapy or aquatic exercise is a specific type of treatment involving exercising in water. Hydrotherapy can be used to help improve one’s mobility, both pre and post-surgery, as well as allowing people to complete movements that their disability and pain, like arthritis, may prevent. Ramps, hoists and water wheelchairs, as well as varying the depth of water make the pool accessible for everyone. Hydrotherapy also involves the use of special exercise equipment, so we can strengthen muscles, improve posture and walking ability in a pain free way! (2)

The pool is set to a warm temperature, usually 32- 34C, to relax your muscles, stimulate circulation, reduce pain, decrease swelling and help reduce spasticity – especially beneficial for those with conditions such as Cerebral Palsy.

Hydrotherapy takes advantage of buoyancy, which is beneficial as it reduces stress on your joints, bones and muscles by reducing the weight-bearing load that goes through these structures. This means that the exercises performed in the water are more supported and less painful than on land. This is especially beneficial for those who find walking or weight bearing activities difficult on land due to the pain it causes.

Hydrotherapy also uses the principle of water density. As water density is greater than air density, your muscles need to work harder to overcome the resistance of moving in water. The amount of resistance you apply varies depending on water depth, speed and type of movement you are making. This allows for a variety of exercises depending on your goals and those set out by the Exercise Physiologist.

Who can benefit from hydrotherapy?

There are many benefits that hydrotherapy can provide for people with disabilities and with chronic conditions (1) Hydrotherapy has proven to:

  • Help manage pain levels
  • Work on your balance
  • Improve co-ordination
  • Improve strength and function
  • Increasing range of motion in joints
  • Improve aerobic capacity which is necessary for daily activities.

Hydrotherapy not only has physical benefits; it can also benefit one’s mental health. Hydrotherapy can also facilitate social inclusion and can increase your independence and confidence in accessing the local community. (4) Hydrotherapy has proven to increase self-confidence in people’s physical abilities; it can improve your mood, as well as changing your perception of exercise! It doesn’t have to be painful, it can be fun!

By itself, or alongside land-based exercise, hydrotherapy has proven to increase rates of adherence to exercise when people are affected by chronic pain. Exercising long term is important to improve one’s overall functioning, wellbeing and quality of life. (4)

Hydrotherapy has the potential for countless physical and mental health benefits, not limited to better movement, less pain and improved function and mobility. People from all walks of life and varying levels of ability can benefit from hydrotherapy. Get in touch with your Exercise Physiologist and ask if you could benefit from hydrotherapy!

References

  1. Geytenbeek, J. (2002). Evidence for effective Hydrotherapy.  Physiotherapy. 88(9), 514-529. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9406(05)60134-4
  2. Mulligan, H., & Polkinghorne A. (2013). Community use of a hospital pool by people with disabilities. Disability and Health Journal. 6 (4), 385-390. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2013.04.004
  3. Silva, L., Valim, V., Pessanha, A., Oliveira, L., Myamoto, S., Jones, A., & Natour, J. (2008). Hydrotherapy Versus Conventional Land-Based Exercise for the Management of Patients With Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Clinical Trial. American Physical Therapy Association. 88 (1), 12-21. DOI: 10.2522/ptj.20060040
  4. Stan, A. (2012). The benefits of participation in aquatic activities for people with disabilities. Romanian Sports Medicine Society. 13 (1), 1737-1742. Retrieved from https://www.medicinasportiva.ro/SRoMS/RMS/29/benefits_aquatic_activities_people_disabilities.pdf
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