Physiotherapists often use hydrotherapy (or exercising in water) to assist in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal problems. This article discusses the benefits of hydrotherapy and how it can help you.
The obvious benefit of hydrotherapy is the reduced effect of gravity on your body. When you stand in waist deep water you are only supporting 50% of your body weight. Once you move to neck deep water 90% of your body weight is supported. This means you can often perform exercises in water you can’t do on land due to either pain or weakness. It is a great way to exercise weight-bearing joints such as your lower back, hips, knees and ankles by allowing them to move freely. This in turn helps with any stiffness or limited movement you may have. It also reduces the compressive load if you have a lower back problem.
Water can also provide resistance. You can create resistance by forcing floatation devices into the water, or using movement through the water to create resistance. This works muscles in a different way than they are worked on land and can greatly improve their strength. Your Physiotherapist can show you how to use different types of equipment to do this.
Hydrotherapy is performed in warm water. This has the added benefit of relieving pain and improving flexibility. Just as you use a heat pack at home to help with pain and stiffness, the benefit in hydrotherapy is that you experience the warmth while exercising!
Finally, water creates hydrostatic pressure. The deeper you go in water the higher the pressure. This pressure is what’s responsible for scuba divers getting ‘the bends’ if they surface too fast from a deep dive. But even in 1-2m of water hydrostatic pressure exists, even though the levels are fairly low. The benefit of hydrostatic pressure is that it assists circulation by helping your lymphatic system return fluid from your tissues back into the bloodstream so it can be circulated around your body again. If you have any swelling in your body this is the process that helps get rid of it. During hydrotherapy the gentle pressure of the water assists in reducing the swelling in those parts of the body submerged under water. This pressure, in conjunction with the exercises you are doing, has a great impact on reducing swelling.
Hydrotherapy has many benefits and is used to treat a wide range of conditions including spinal, upper and lower body. It is helpful following surgery, particularly after joint replacements and back surgery. It has also proven to be extremely helpful in the management of arthritis.
If you feel hydrotherapy might help you, please make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists at Physiotas to discuss this further.
About the Author:
Geoff is a Director of Physiotas. He graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from La Trobe University in 2002.
Geoff has a special interest in treating neck pain, headaches and lower back problems. He also has an interest in basketball, working with local athletes and providing expertise to local teams.
Geoff has been with Physiotas for 10 years as one of the Principal Physiotherapists. Over this time he has been instrumental in the development and growth of Physiotas to become the leading physiotherapy practice in the north of Tasmania.