The healing effects of water have been known and implemented by medical people since Roman and early Egyptian times.
Hippocrates prescribed bathing for sickness, and there were healing men using warm water baths or thermae to ease pain and stiffness from injury. In modern times, use of cold water baths was studied and popularised for treatment of fever and other illnesses, starting in England and Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the mid 1800s, many facilities were available in England offering “the water-cure” or hydropathy, and spread to the US in the 1850s.
Modern Aquatic Physiotherapy involves exercise and/or treatment in a pool, utilising the unique properties of water to make exercise more or less challenging. Buoyancy results in reduced compressive load from gravity on joints and bones, allowing movement through range that would be impossible on land – for instance in post-surgical rehabilitation, fracture management, chronic pain conditions, or neurological rehabilitation (stroke, MS, Cerebral Palsy).
It is fun, relaxing, pain-relieving, social and beneficial to physical and mental health.
Turbulence, too, can be applied for increasing or decreasing challenge of activities, for instance in retraining walking, if a therapist walks in front of a patient this creates a “slipstream” current, assisting the patient by reducing the work of walking. In contrast, if the therapist walks beside the patient, this creates turbulent flow, which increases drag and provides resistance to work against. Water pressure increases as a function of depth, meaning that swollen body parts have some compression applied to them (especially useful for swollen ankles, feet, knees). In a modern Aquatic Physiotherapy class we use the standard pool equipment such as kick boards and noodles to apply resistance or support, as well as specialised physiotherapy equipment such as hip floats, neck floats, ankle cuffs, hand paddles, wobble boards and weights to progress and challenge our patient – restoring normal movement and strength.
In a private practice setting, Aquatic Physiotherapy or hydrotherapy is mostly used as an early step in the rehabilitation pathway, with patients rapidly improving, and graduating to land and gym-based programs. In some cases, such as persistent pain conditions (like Chronic Low Back pain, fibromyalgia, ankylosing spondylitis etc) patients find that Aquatic Physiotherapy becomes as much a part of their life as medication. When attended regularly, their pain is less and quality of life improves, and after a week or two break their condition deteriorates.
Universally, patients find water-based therapy to be profoundly helpful with rehabilitation of whatever injury they present with. It is fun, relaxing, pain-relieving, social and beneficial to physical and mental health. Our physiotherapists provided this wonderful service from the Monbulk Aquatic Centre in Baynes Park Rd, Monbulk on Mondays and Thursdays currently. Call our clinic to enquire, or if you’re a current patient ask your therapist about the benefit of a course of Aquatic Physiotherapy, and whether it would be of benefit for your rehabilitation.