Hydrotherapy is often a popular adjunct to Physiotherapy due to the benefits that water has on the body that land doesn't offer. But what is Hydrotherapy? Is it the same as water exercises or water aerobics?
Hydrotherapy is water therapy used by Physiotherapists, in which they are trained to specifically use the properties of water to assist with therapy. It preferably takes place in warm pools with the temperature of the water set at 32-34 degrees. This is so that the only energy you are expending is through exercise and not through maintaining your body heat.
In this article we will discuss three properties of water, but there are also many other fantastic properties of water that can be utilised for therapy.
The first we will discuss is buoyancy. The definition of buoyancy is “the ability or tendency of something to float in water or fluid” Because of the human body’s composition, we can float quite well in the water. In fact, when we are waist deep approximately 50% of our body weight goes through our legs and when we are shoulder deep only 15% of our body weight is going through our legs. This is where as therapists we often utilise the effects of buoyancy on the body to help retrain walking. It allows people to walk more normally without the affects of gravity pulling on weakened joints or muscles. For some people, being upright and walking may not even be possible due to their conditions but often in the water this can be very achievable.
The second property we often utilise for exercise is water’s turbulence. The definition of turbulence is the ‘violent or unsteady movement of water’. Have you ever been in the waves at the beach and often feel like you may get pushed over? In the water, we can create this same affect by either creating it ourselves or someone else can create it around you. This can be done by using basic equipment like a kickboard. By dragging it through the water you will create turbulence or waves, which then requires your body to be able to resist the waves and maintain your balance. Little do people realise that this is a great way to strengthen your core muscles and train your balance. It is always good to touch base with a trained Hydro therapist to see what exercises can help benefit your recovery.
Finally, the property that people enjoy the most is the relaxing property of warm water. Similar to how people use a hot pack to release muscle spasms, the warm water often has the same ability to relax muscles. It is often a great treatment if people have a lot of spasticity or tone in their muscles or if they are very stiff and rigid from incorrect movement patterns due to their conditions. Furthermore, we can also use the buoyancy of water to help people to float and relax either on their backs or stomachs. Often it is a great way to perform stretches in these position that might be somewhat difficult on land.
It is important to note that land-based therapy is still vital. Unfortunately, humans are made to walk on land and not on water, so it is important to continue retraining and exercising on land as well. If hydrotherapy is something you are interested in for your neurological condition, feel free to contact someone at Klint to discuss the possibility further.
“The properties of water and their application for training”, L. Torres-Ronda, X. Schelling