Aquatic Exercise vs Skilled Therapy
Aquatic exercise and aquatic physical therapy are not the same thing. When specifically speaking of aquatic exercise, the goals may be to work on fitness, strength, weight loss, muscular endurance or muscular strength and the individual does not require the supervision and direction of the therapist. In contrast, Aquatic therapy is designed to treat a specific deficit or dysfunction in the body that limits normal functioning of the body. In addition, aquatic therapy is designed and individually tailored to meet the needs of a specific patient by a doctor of physical therapy. The following are guidelines on when an individual may be a good candidate for skilled aquatic physical therapy versus aquatic exercise alone.
Aquatic physical therapy requires the “skilled service” of a PT and/or PTA which may include:
a) the clinical reasoning and decision making skills of a PT/PTA;
b) the patient has impairments and/or disabilities which can be minimized or eliminated with aquatic physical therapy; and
c) the patient has potential for reaching new functional goals/outcomes to improve quality of life and ease the burden of care.
What are the benefits of Aquatic therapy?
These are some of the ways that water’s natural properties create an ideal therapeutic environment:
How do I know if I need Aquatic Therapy?
Water therapy may be helpful for clients suffering from the following conditions:
What are my responsibilities as a patient?
The water therapy client must have appropriate attire such as a swimsuit or comfortable clothing that can get wet. It is also recommended that clients provide a towel, cover-up, shoes to protect their feet in the pool area and a plastic bottle with drinking water to maintain hydration.
What does the evidence say?
Marinho-Buzelli AR, Rouhani H, Craven BC, Masani K, Barela JA, Popovic MR, Verrier MC. Effects of water immersion on quasi-static standing exploring center of pressure sway and trunk acceleration: a case series after incomplete spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord Ser Cases. 2019 Jan 17;5:5. doi: 10.1038/s41394-019-0147-2. eCollection 2019.
Gait Posture. 2017 Jan;51:70-76. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2016.09.009. Epub 2016 Sep 28.
Marinho-Buzelli AR1, Rouhani H2, Masani K3, Verrier MC4, Popovic MR5. The influence of the aquatic environment on the control of postural sway. Afr J Disabil. 2018 May 16;7(0):450. doi: 10.4102/ajod.v7i0.450. eCollection 2018.
Li C1, Khoo S, Adnan A. Effects of aquatic exercise on physical function and fitness among people with spinal cord injury: A systematic review. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Feb;99(2):234-241. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2017.06.015. Epub 2017 Jul 20.
Kargarfard M1, Shariat A2, Ingle L3, Cleland JA4, Kargarfard M5. Randomized Controlled Trial to Examine the Impact of Aquatic Exercise Training on Functional Capacity, Balance, and Perceptions of Fatigue in Female Patients With Multiple Sclerosis. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2017 Dec;53(6):944-952. doi: 10.23736/S1973-9087.17.04570-1. Epub 2017 Feb 17.