Hydrotherapy in relation to physiotherapy treatment is simply performing exercises in water to help improve movement and relieve pain. It’s typically done in a warm pool, but you can do it in your normal swimming pool too.
As physiotherapists, we regularly use hydrotherapy to help treat our patients. We may recommend it if you have arthritis, as part of a post-surgery or post-injury rehabilitation programme, to relieve pain, or to help prevent falls by improving balance.
Large weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips can be painful to exercise or mobilise when you have arthritis. Submerged in water you can remove much of that weight. This makes it easier to perform exercises to help you keep your range of movement in the joints and to build and maintain your muscle strength.
After injury or surgery, your consultant may restrict your weight bearing, or you could be lacking confidence in the ability of your body after surgery or injury. Hydrotherapy is a great way to start your rehabilitation. It lets you avoid muscle wasting, increase your range of movement, and challenge yourself in a safe environment.
By varying the depth of water you exercise in, you can offload between 25 and 100% of your body weight. This ensures you can adhere to your consultant’s recommendation, while using the water resistance and turbulence to work the muscles, and the buoyancy of the water to move joints through a wider range of movement than you might be comfortable with on land. You can also start working on gait re-education, which is impossible to do on land until you’re fully weight bearing.
Pain is commonly associated with muscle tension, which can be difficult to get rid of especially if the pain of an injury causes further stress. Floating in water can help you to relax and also get your body moving in a non-weight bearing position. This can be a less threatening way of moving your body in a pattern that is bio-mechanically normal. The warm water is an added bonus that naturally makes us more at ease too.
After a traumatic fall, many people become very fearful of challenging their balance. Instead, they adapt their behaviour, doing things like widening their stance or holding onto furniture to reduce the risk of falling again. Hydrotherapy in water at waist height provides a safe environment for you to challenge your balance and narrow your stance when walking. Bouyed by the water you are supported and falls caused by loss of balance are slower. This give you more time to react and correct your balance. As you become more confident, we can challenge your balance more with the use of turbulence.
Speak to us if you have any questions about how hydrotherapy could help you today.