Aquatic Therapy, also commonly referred to as underwater therapy and hydrotherapy, is becoming a common treatment option under the guidance of physical therapists. A variety of patients benefits from this type of therapy – ranging from those preparing for surgery to recovering after an injury or medical procedure, and more.
Even just a few years ago, the idea of working out on an underwater treadmill seemed like something only professional athletes would have access to; now, physical therapists are incorporating the aquatic treadmill and underwater therapy for athletes and non-athletes alike.
At AICA Orthopedics, our physical therapists are dedicated to helping you through the healing process and incorporating the aquatic treadmill into your treatment plan is one beneficial way to speed up the physical therapy process in a healthy, healing environment.
Here are five ways an aquatic treadmill speeds up physical therapy:
1. Allow Muscles to Move Sooner
Whether you are recovering from an injury or surgery, the resting period can often be a time of frustration, especially when a patient who previously enjoyed a more active lifestyle finds themselves sidelined.
In cases where an aquatic treadmill is recommended, you are actually able to begin moving your muscles sooner in an underwater environment. The ability to move your body sooner can also contribute to a more positive outlook on the healing process and relieve any stress or anxiety you may be experiencing.
Exercise, in general, can help improve mental health, so when faced with a setback like a rest and recovery period, a low-impact activity like underwater therapy can help patients begin the process of recovery sooner and still maintain similar fitness goals.
2. Reduce Pressure on Joints
Any time we can participate in an activity to reduce pressure on the joints is a great way to preserve healthy joints and prevent additional impact on already stressed joints. Depending on the water level in an aquatic treadmill, your body weight is reduced which means less pressure on your joints and bones.
Professional athletes often use underwater treadmills as part of their workout regimen because they can still experience the benefits of a cardiovascular workout without the stress and strain on the joints.
Similarly, those recovering from surgery or an injury can begin the recovery process underwater in a low-impact environment and engage in healthy ranges of motion to encourage musculoskeletal healing and recovery.
3. Improve Circulation
The buoyancy of underwater therapy in creating a low-stress environment for joints and sore muscles isn’t the only benefit of the water. Physical therapists also utilize a therapeutic water temperature to encourage muscle relaxation, support pain management, and improve circulation.
The warm temperature of the water encourages improved blood flow and the low-impact resistance of the hydrostatic pressure also promotes circulation. Reduced swelling and inflammation are also natural benefits to immersing the body in warmer temperature water.
Healthy circulation is a key element of recovery because it encourages blood flow to injured muscles and areas of the body to encourage healing.
4. Increase Range of Motion
When parts of the body are immersed underwater, the water not only supports the body but also provides an additional level of resistance not experienced on dry land. As the water supports and holds up the body, patients are able to stretch their muscles and move their bodies in ways that promote circulation, stretching, and flexibility.
Physical therapists encouraging an aquatic therapy environment will help patients begin with gentle range of motion and use the benefits of the water to increase range of motion sooner than would be appropriate on dry land. The buoyancy and support of the water allows for muscles to move more safely and encourage flexibility into promoting healthy range of motion.
5. Maintain Overall Fitness
Using an aquatic treadmill means you will be engaging more body movement and activity in a supportive environment, which can help maintain muscle tone and continued cardiovascular strength. For runners, an added benefit of physical therapy with an aquatic treadmill is that you are able to return to the muscle memory of running sooner than with on-land therapies.
The resistance of the water allows for a more low-impact way to move your muscles and help your body get back to a healthy range of motion sooner. Some patients are even pleasantly surprised to find that their cardiovascular stamina has improved. Hydrotherapy techniques enforce a consistent regimen the encourage circulation and flexible muscle movement.
To discuss hydrotherapy techniques and treatments with a physical therapist, contact AICA Orthopedics today!