The physical therapy that is performed in the water is termed as aquatic therapy or pool therapy. This means that the aquatic therapy or pool therapy includes an exercise program that is performed in the water. Aquatic therapy is primarily based on the resistance of water instead of weights. Aquatic therapy has been found to be extremely beneficial especially to rehabilitate patients after injury or those with chronic illness. Aquatic therapy uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing and exercise performance.
Buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure are the two physical laws of the water that therapists should apply in aquatic therapy. The role of Buoyancy in aquatic therapy lies in three tiers: as assistance, as support and as resistance. Buoyancy reduces stress on weight bearing joints making it ideal for arthritis, bone fracture and obese patients treated with aquatic therapy. In addition an individual has increased freedom in the water. Therefore a person who is fully immersed in water experiences approximately a 90% reduction in body weight thereby reducing the impact on the muscular-skeletal system.
On the other hand hydrostatic pressure supports the body in the upright position with equal water pressure on all aspects of the body. It helps to decrease swelling and improve joint position awareness. Finally, the patients suffering with muscle spasms, back pain, and fibromyalgia find warmth of water in aquatic therapy especially therapeutic. The warmth of the water felt during aquatic therapy helps in relaxing muscles and aids in the vasodilatation of blood vessels, increasing blood flow to injured areas.
There are different methods of aquatic therapy, but Ruth Sova, founder of the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute, Inc. (ATRI) suggests these exercises for aquatic therapy:
Ai Chi: it is a combination of deep breathing and slow broad movements of the arms, legs and torso incorporating concepts of Tai Chi, Shiatsu and Qigong. It is performed standing in shoulder-depth, warm water.
Ai Chi Ne: This helps to reduce stress, joint tension, muscular tension, and stretches the reflex response as it involves breathing techniques to increase relaxation and enhances stretching abilities.
Bad Ragaz: this aquatic therapy method involves muscle re-education, utilizing specific patterns of resistance, endurance, elongation, relaxation, range of motion and tonal reduction.
Feldenkrais: This method utilizes the gentle movement and directed attention to improve movement and human functioning. This aquatic therapy method increases the ease and range of motion, and improves flexibility and coordination.
Massage: Water massage which involves the use of soft tissue manipulation and body mobilization techniques in very warm water is a turning point in aquatic therapy.
Water Pilates: Water Pilates helps improve strength, flexibility and range of motion. It also encourages musculoskeletal alignment. This aquatic therapy method includes resisting your own weight, controlling your breathing, aligning your spin and strengthening your abdominals.
Water Yoga: water yoga are as effective as their land counterparts, Hatha yoga poses are performed in warm, waist-to chest-deep water, developing strength and static balance simultaneously.
Watsu: It includes the movements of Zen Schiatsu to reduce muscle tension, enhance self awareness, and promote relaxation and emotional release. It is usually used in rehabilitation programs for people with orthopedic problems or physical disabilities, for pregnant mothers, and for the elderly.
Yogalates: There is an emphasis on deep breathing, static poses and circular movements to create a continual fluid program. This technique aims at increased body awareness, strength, and range of motion, relaxation and an inward focus.