[As you may know, I love water. This post was contributed by BFF since I was three years old. Jes and I grew up together spending nearly every day of the summer in our local pool from the time they opened til they rang the bell at sunset. Now, Jes co-owns Water PTs, a water physical therapy business that brings an innovative spin to conventional physical therapy inspired by her love for water. Let's check out the benefits of aquatic therapy. Emily xoxo]
When I was introduced to physical therapy in water, I was so impressed with the benefits the patients were receiving that I changed my career path and dove into an aquatic therapy company. I am amazed every day by how much the water helps people heal.
Aquatic therapy is gaining popularity as folks are realizing what an amazing tool water can be for rehabilitation, fitness and relaxation. Already established as a mainstay for health in Europe and Brazil, Americans are starting to embrace water-based therapy treatments too.
9 benefits of aquatic therapy
#1 – Water therapy works for all kinds of conditions
Water therapy can help relieve the pain associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions, and post injury or surgery. Water therapy can be started earlier than land therapy after a surgery or injury because you don’t need to be weight-bearing to exercise in the water. Water can also be an effective tool for weight loss, general fitness and relaxation.
#2 – You need some body/mind/spirit healing
Western medicine is beginning to accept that the body/mind connection is an important element in health and healing. Floating in water can make you feel like you are back in the womb, totally supported in an effortless way. This allows for complete relaxation of your muscles and your mind, giving your therapist a great space to perform bodywork, stretching and other relaxation techniques.
#3 – You float!
Water creates a nearly weightless exercise environment. Being submerged in neck-deep water reduces your weight by about 90 percent. Buoyancy reduces compression on your joints and spine and allows for the strengthening of muscles without the associated pain that many experience with land based exercises.
If you’re worried that you are not able to float, water therapist use a variety of different floatation equipment to ensure that everyone is in a secure and comfortable position while exercising or receiving bodywork. No swimming skills are necessary!
#4 – Warm water is healing
Immersion in warm water raises the body temperature and causes the blood vessels to dilate, resulting in increased circulation. This is what happens during your time in the water…
After 5 minutes – your blood pressure and pulse rates may begin to drop.
After 8 minutes – your circulation improves in your hands and feet making them feel warmer.
After 12 minutes – your muscles relax, becoming more receptive to passive exercise. Tissues become more pliable and responsive to stretching, encouraging the release of lactic acid and other toxins from your system.
At 15 minutes – your minor aches and pains will often experience a temporary decrease in severity.
Warm water aquatic therapy pools help your body relax, assisting in muscle movement, decreasing pain, and increasing range of motion.
#5 – The water embraces you
Water has a higher density than air. This density causes a force called hydrostatic pressure to be exerted on your body when you are in water. Hydrostatic pressure basically gives your body a gentle hug.
Ever notice how taking bath will take away some of your aches and pains? Hydrostatic pressure improves circulation, reduces swelling and can relieve pain, all without you doing a thing.
#6 – You need a fresh angle on bodywork
The traditional bodywork you experience during your land-based physical therapy, massage, or chiropractic treatment usually takes place on a table and restricts your therapist to working on only one plane of your body at a time. In the water, your therapist can access your body from every angle.
Aquatic bodywork combines elements of massage, joint mobilization, shiatsu/acupressure and muscle stretching. You are continuously supported while being floated, massaged and stretched. The deeply relaxing effects of warm water combined with movements, stretches, massage and point work, create a bodywork experience with a range of therapeutic benefits and potential healing on many levels.
The warm water relaxes the muscles and supports the spine. With this support and without the weight of the body, the spine, joints and muscles can be manipulated and freed in a way unique to water-work. The effects include a very gentle yet deep stretching and a release of muscular and joint restrictions, along with a state of deep relaxation, which encourages the release of stress and tension. (source)
#7 – It makes pregnant moms feel great
Growing a new life inside your body is no small task and pregnancy can take a toll on your joints, back, knees and ankles specifically.
The properties we’ve discussed earlier of buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure and resistance have positive effects on the aches and pains some women experience during pregnancy including reducing back pain, decreasing the dreaded swollen ankles and calves, and minimizing ligament injuries.
For those women who feel their normal exercise routines aren’t working for them anymore, water may be the place where you can work out safely and comfortably. This can help control pregnancy weight and improve sleep patterns. It also allows the expectant mom to feel weightless. (source)
#8 – You want to lose weight and get in shape
Water-based workouts aren’t just for Olympic swimmers or the retired set! From the already active to workout newbies, deep and shallow water exercise can provide cardiovascular and resistance training simultaneously.
Water provides a constant resistance in all directions. This resistance can be increased or decreased by the speed at which you move or through the use of weights and other resistance devices. This makes your body work and burn calories even when it feels like you’re doing very little.
Increasing your heart rate while toning your muscles is the most effective and healthy way to lose weight and keep it off. Deep-water interval training increases cardiac output, shallow water resistance training increases upper and lower body strength, and water walking improves balance and coordination.
#9 – It’s FUN!
Ever notice how when you get into a pool, Jacuzzi, or even your own bathtub you instantly feel better? Water provides more than just a safe, comfortable environment for exercise and rehabilitation. Although it does improve physical health, it also provides a rejuvenating and soothing environment to decrease tension and stress and improve overall emotional well-being.
Imagine a place where you can feel better both physically and emotionally… Are you picturing a swimming pool in your mind’s eye? You should be.
Jessica Semmel is co-owner of Water PT Specialists an aquatic physical therapy company with locations in Culver City, Westchester and Sherman Oaks in the Los Angeles area. For more information visit WaterPTs.com.
Have you tried aquatic therapy? How has it helped you?