By Danica Low Director of Marketing Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center Blue Ridge Physical Therapy The Foundation of Blue Ridge Orthopaedics
The use of water to aid in the healing process is centuries old and continues to amaze the medical community. Aquatic Physical Therapy, also known as Aquatic PT, is an alternative option for treating a wide variety of conditions and injuries, including arthritis, total joint replacements, spinal surgery and fractures.
It also provides an alternative to land-based treatment for those with balance issues or obesity. Aquatic Physical Therapy allows for a decrease in body weight underwater, making exercise feel “lighter” due to the effect of hydrostatic pressure and the resistance of the water.
What is buoyancy?
Buoyancy is the upward force water exerts on an object that allows us to float in a pool. Someone standing hip-deep in water has approximately 50 percent reduction in their body weight. The deeper the water, the more this increases. For people that have pain with standing, or an injury that requires limited weight bearing, Aquatic Physical Therapy can allow an earlier start to strengthening and return to normal activities, such as walking and stairs.
For stiff joints, this buoyancy can also be used to assist in regaining normal range of motion by letting the water “do the work” to raise the limb instead of relying entirely on weak, stiff, healing or painful muscles. We can work against buoyancy to strengthen the muscles, too.
What is hydrostatic pressure?
Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure exerted upon an object in a fluid. In the pool, this pressure assists with swelling by providing constant pressure around a joint. It can also help with controlling blood pressure and heart rate because the blood is being assisted back to the heart.
Water provides approximately 12 times the resistance of air. This resistance is applied in all directions, unlike gravity, so you work equally – moving out and coming back to the start position. This helps engage multiple muscles at once, especially those that stabilize a joint.
Aquatic Physical Therapy is for anyone that is looking for a complement or alternative to traditional land-based Physical Therapy. A doctor’s script is required, just like it is for land-based PT.
Where is Aquatic Physical Therapy offered?
Aquatic Physical Therapy is the practice of Physical Therapy in an aquatic environment under the supervision of a trained healthcare professional. For example, one local option is Blue Ridge Physical Therapy, which provides Aquatic Physical Therapy through a cooperative arrangement with the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF).