Hydrotherapy is aquatic physiotherapy completed in a warm water pool. This includes both exercise and movements to achieve particular rehabilitation goals. This may be completed in conjunction with land based physiotherapy, manual therapy and gym rehabilitation.
Who benefits from Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy is used for many different patient populations including older people, arthritis, back pain, shoulder and neck pain, lower limb rehabilitation, weight-loss management and general fitness. Hydrotherapy is suitable for most age groups, those with poor mobility and those with reduced weight bearing ability. The use of water improves muscle spasm, allows ease of movement, reduces swelling and may provide pain relief.
The principles of Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy uses the principles of resistance and buoyancy to complete different exercises to those which can be achieved on land. The water provides resistance to all movements completed within the water. The level of resistance can be altered depending on the amount of water, speed of movement within the water and the direction of the movements completed. If the level of the water is reduced then the resistance will be reduced on the body. If the speed of movement is increased the resistance will be increased. If the limb moves against the flow of water, the resistance will increase. In contrast if the limb is moved in the same direction as the water movement, the resistance is reduced.
How Hydrotherapy helps
The resistance of the water allows for rehabilitation exercises to be completed for those with specific strength deficiencies or those with generalised weakness. The level of resistance is adjusted for each individual and may be increased with the use of equipment or increased level of water.
Buoyancy is the upward force created by the water, acting opposite to gravity. Buoyancy works through the water taking a percentage of your body weight as you exercise. The higher the level of the water, the more buoyancy created and less weight taken by you. Reduced gravity created by buoyancy within the water will reduce compression forces on the joints. This may reduce stress placed on joints and reduce pain responses. This is particularly useful in arthritic patients and those with reduced weight bearing abilities.
Hydrotherapy provides unique benefits
Buoyancy assisted movements are unique to hydrotherapy and this allows you to increase the range of motion of joints further than you would normally be able to on land. Muscles can also be activated in alternative directions to their normal activation creating buoyancy resisted movements. Resistance may be increased with the use of equipment in the pool including pool noodles, kick boards and weights.
Turbulence is water moving in an uncontrolled direction. This is increased with a higher speed of water, faster movement and increased mass. This is useful for whole body control and postural muscle activation.
The ability of the joints to move is improved though the hydrotherapy pool water being warmer. This allows increased circulation of joint fluid and increased flexibility of surrounding structures. This is particularly helpful for those with arthritis and joint based problems. The increased circulation and altered stimulation may also reduce pain.
Factors your physiotherapist will need to consider with Hydrotherapy
The resistance, warm water and physical requirements within the pool mean that hydrotherapy is not suitable for everyone. Those with open wounds, unstable medical conditions and skin conditions may not be suitable for hydrotherapy. Those with cardiovascular and respiratory problems must also be monitored closely. Your treating physiotherapist will consider all these factors when looking for the most appropriate therapy for you.
If you decide to pursue hydrotherapy you will be prescribed an individual program which will be completed in a group setting with supervision, and may be completed independently depending on your capabilities.