Aquatic therapy is a therapeutic approach that is defined as a program, using mechanical and thermal characteristics of water during partial immersion, in combination with the effects of movement. It evokes short-term and long-term adaptational mechanisms of a person with a deranged biological system, using specific stimuli to create biological and thus therapeutic effects. The choice for aquatic therapy is the result of a clinical reasoning process that identifies the problems and needs of a patient, the possibilities that aquatic therapy offers to support the needs in terms of allowing and stimulation adaptational processes (like increase of strength or giving the opportunity to walk without devices). Fluidmechanical characteristics are used in aquatic therapy to influence physiological parameters in a repair/recovery process. Depending on this process (what kind of complaints), the therapist can choose to use a certain aquatic therapy approach, which mostly is named “method” or “concept”. The Association International Aquatic Therapy Faculty teaches (in over 60 countries worldwide):
- Water Specific Therapy: postural control, fall prevention
- The Bad Ragaz Ring Method: myofascial activation, strengthening
- Clinical Ai Chi and AquaQiGong: active, mindful postural relaxation
- Aqua-T-Relax: passive movements for sustained concentration and resilience
- Aqua-T-Fit: cardiovascular and brain fitness
With its numerous benefits and versatility, aquatic therapy has gained popularity in recent years as an effective method of treatment for various conditions. The buoyancy of water plays a crucial role in aquatic therapy, allowing individuals to exercise with reduced joint stress and muscle strain. This property makes it an ideal choice for those recovering from injuries, surgeries, or dealing with chronic pain. Aquatic therapy enables patients to improve their range of motion, flexibility, and strength in a supportive and low-impact environment, which also easily can be changed into a high-impact environment.
The use of aquatic therapy extends beyond physical rehabilitation. It not only has shown promising results in treating individuals with neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson's disease, but also in many others.
The resistance provided by water enhances muscle activation and control, aiding in the development of motor skills doe posture and gait.
Moreover, aquatic therapy offers benefits for individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The humid environment near the water surface can help open airways, promote deep breathing, and improve lung function. Patients often experience reduced symptoms and increased stamina through regular aquatic therapy sessions.
Aquatic therapy is not limited to treating specific conditions but can also be utilized as a preventive measure and for overall fitness. People of all ages and fitness levels can engage in water exercises to maintain cardiovascular health, muscle tone, and joint mobility. The resistance of water provides a challenging workout while minimizing the risk of injuries.
Aquatic therapy sessions are conducted by trained professionals, such as physical therapists or occupational therapists, who customize exercises according to individual needs. They guide patients through various movements, including fascial resilience, aerobic exercises, and resistance training, all performed in the water. The therapist closely monitors the progress and adjusts the exercises as required.
The versatility of aquatic therapy is evident in its ability to cater to diverse populations. It is e.g. particularly beneficial for persons with osteoporosis, as it provides a safe and comfortable environment for exercise while reducing stress on the joints. Aquatic therapy also benefits individuals with weight management goals, as the water's resistance allows for efficient calorie burning and muscle toning.
Aside from its physical advantages, aquatic therapy has psychological benefits as well. The soothing properties of water create a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety. Engaging in water-based exercises can improve mood and promote relaxation.
In conclusion, aquatic therapy is a highly effective and versatile form of treatment that can benefit individuals with various conditions, from physical injuries to neurological disorders. Its low-impact nature, combined with the resistance and buoyancy of water, makes it an ideal therapeutic approach for rehabilitation, fitness, and overall well-being. Whether used as a primary treatment method or as a complementary approach, aquatic therapy continues to demonstrate its value in promoting healing and enhancing the quality of life for countless individuals.