Hydrotherapy, also known as water therapy or aquatic therapy, is a form of physical therapy that involves low-impact aerobics, stretching and strengthening exercises as well as functional training performed in water, for example, balance and gait training. It can help people with various neurological, rheumatologic and orthopedic diseases, injuries, chronic pain and disabilities, improve their range of motion, strengthen their muscles and increase their overall physical functions.
There are two main properties of water, namely buoyancy and resistance. Firstly, the buoyancy of the water makes it an ideal environment for rehabilitation. The buoyancy support reduces weight bearing on the joints and bones, decreases pain, and makes it easier to move about and perform exercises. Secondly, the water resistance against motions helps to reduce stiffness, improve joint mobility and stretch and strengthen the muscles. Hence, these benefits of water make hydrotherapy a beneficial tool for:
- Pain relief: The buoyancy of the water helps reduce the weight bearing on joints and muscles, providing relief from pain and discomfort.
- Improved mobility: Water resistance against movements helps improve the range of motion, flexibility and strength.
- Improved cardiovascular fitness: Hydrotherapy enables low-impact cardiovascular exercise. The water resistance provides a challenging workout for the heart and lungs, making it a good option for people looking to improve their fitness levels without the risk of injuries. Additionally, the buoyancy support of water makes it easier for people to perform exercises that may be difficult or uncomfortable on land, such as running or jumping.
- Relaxation: The warm water and its buoyancy support helps relax muscles and reduce stress and tension.
- Improved balance and coordination: Water's liquid state helps improve balance and coordination.
- Weight loss: Hydrotherapy provides a low-impact, full-body workout that helps burn calories and promote weight loss.
There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of hydrotherapy for many conditions. It has been shown in studies to be effective in reducing pain and improving function in people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as in improving balance and lowering fall risks in older adults with or without multiple comorbidities such as obesity, stroke or spinal cord injury.
Hydrotherapy usually takes place in a warm-water pool at a depth adjusted according to the patient's height. Typically, the floor around the pool is anti-slip. The patient steps into the water or can use an electrically controlled chair to enter it safely. Moreover, hydrotherapy typically involves working with a physical therapist in a pool to perform exercises and functional training tailored to the individual's needs and goals.
It is important to note that people with certain medical conditions may not be suitable candidates for hydrotherapy. These include the following:
- Active infections: A person with a urinary tract infection or a skin infection may contaminate the water.
- Open wounds or skin lesions: Patients with open wounds or skin lesions should avoid hydrotherapy until they have healed.
- Cardiac issues: Patients with cardiac conditions, such as unstable angina or uncontrolled hypertension, should not use hydrotherapy.
- Severe arthritis: For severe arthritis patients, hydrotherapy may not be appropriate, as moving in a liquid environment can put extra stress on the joints.
- Severe respiratory issues: Such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
It is also essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new form of exercise program, including hydrotherapy.
Hydrotherapy is a form of physical therapy that involves exercises and functional training in water. It is an effective tool for improving range of motion, flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness and is beneficial for people with many different conditions, including arthabilihritis, chronic pain and disabilities. If you are interested in hydrotherapy, it is a good idea to first consult with a healthcare provider who specialises in retation medicine, or a trained therapist, to determine if it is appropriate for you. They can formulate a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals.
Author: Dr. Saridpong Lee, MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, MedPark Hospital. Tel. 02 023 3333.
Series Editor: Katalya Bruton, Healthcare Content Editor and Director, Dataconsult Ltd. Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum at Sasin provides seminars and documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and the Mekong Region. Tel. 02-233-5606/7. Email email@example.com