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Dive into Physical Therapy: The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy

Dive into Physical Therapy:

The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy

Written By: Dr. Michelle Millner PT, DPT

H2O: the basic substance that every single living thing on this planet needs to survive. We need it to cleanse our bodies internally and externally.  We also use water for relaxation and healing.  In fact, human beings have been doing that for centuries.  In recent years, research has shown that water provides an excellent environment to exercise in, which makes aquatic therapy a useful adjunct to traditional physical therapy.

Why is aquatic physical therapy useful?
There are 3 main properties of water that make it useful for physical therapy: buoyancy, compression and resistance to active movement. 

1) Buoyancy is the ability of water to make us float. This quality essentially decreases the impact of gravity on our bodies. When you are submerged in water up to your chest you weigh about 75% less. That means 75% less stress on any painful joints and 75% less stress on painful muscles. If someone has significant weakness, sometimes working in a virtually non-weight bearing environment allows you to strengthen your muscles without putting additional stress on your body. Gradually decreasing the depth of the water gives physical therapists the ability to grade weight bearing and decrease impact on irritated joints as strength increases. 

2) Compression refers to the pressure created by the water against your body as it rests in the water. Compression is useful for decreasing swelling in the extremities and helps to alleviate painful, swollen joints. Compression can help increase circulation and promote relaxation of irritated tissues around the painful joints or muscles. 

3) Resistance refers to the density of water that makes it hard for us to move through it.  Walking through water gives resistance to active movement without applying excessive force. In other words, you have to work hard to move through water, thereby increasing strength without undue stress.

There are many situations and diagnoses for which aquatic physical therapy is particularly useful. If you are having trouble recovering from an injury, illness or just want to get back into shape without stressing your joints, feel free to contact us to see if aquatic physical therapy is appropriate for you.  You can contact us via phone (973-270-7417) or request an appointment at the top, right-hand corner of our website.

Our offices are conveniently located in the Madison & Summit Area YMCAs in New Jersey.  This allows us to have access to the pool for aquatic physical therapy and makes it easy for our physical therapists to create an exercise plan for our patients and to instruct them correctly using the YMCA equipment.  You do not need a YMCA membership to visit us.

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