What are the Benefits of Aquatic Therapy?
Water provides numerous benefits that cannot be reproduced on land. Let’s take a look at the benefits of aquatic therapy.
- Buoyancy: Have you ever noticed that things seem to weigh a lot less in water?? This is the work of buoyancy! Buoyancy is defined as the upward thrust that acts opposite gravity. And the further you immerse yourself into water, the less that you weigh. For example, when waist deep in water, you will weigh approximately 50% of what you do on land. By the time you are chest deep in water, your weight has been reduced by 70%! Can you see how this would be advantageous for anyone with sore joints or chronic pain?
- Hydrostatic Pressure: Most simply stated, hydrostatic pressure is the amount of pressure that water places on all surfaces of your body while immersed in water. This pressure is equal across all joints at any particular depth and increases in nature as you submerge your body deeper in the water. Basically, the water is acting as hosiery for the entire body, making water an excellent rehabilitation environment for those who suffer from poor circulation, swelling or lymphedema. Hydrostatic pressure also makes for an excellent way to safely and effectively strengthen weakened respiratory muscles.
- Viscosity: Viscosity is defined as a fluid’s resistance to flow. For example, imagine a cup full of water and a cup full of honey. If you turn those cups over, the water is sure to pour out much more quickly, right? This is because honey is highly viscous and its molecules resist movement. Did you know that water is 790 times more viscous than the air that land-based physical therapy is performed in? Let’s imagine marching in place on land, and then imagine the same exercise in water. While lifting your legs in water, you are dragging the water molecules that cling to your body as well as the water molecules that are trying to stick together. Due to the more viscous nature of water than air, your body is having to fight through a great deal more resistance!
- Surface Tension: Surface tension is the force that exists at the air/water interface. Have you ever tried to submerge something in water and had a heck of a time doing it? This is because of surface tension! In aquatic therapy, surface tension is very beneficial because it acts as a resistive force when moving an extremity from the water to the air and back again.
- Refraction: Light refraction is the bending of a light ray as it passes from air into water. This bending causes a distortion of body images while under water. Have you ever looked down at your hand or your foot while in water and felt like it was oddly located compared to where your brain was telling you it should be? This is the work of refraction. How is this property of water considered a benefit of aquatic therapy? An essential function of the central nervous system is something called proprioception- the sense of position of self and movement. If you raise your hand in the air and then close your eyes, you still know where your hand is located. This is proprioception. Reaching for objects while your arms or legs are under water challenges the body’s sense of proprioception because refraction causes an illusion of location.
Carling Physical Therapy offers Aquatic Physical Therapy Services in the heart of Gilbert, AZ. Call us at 480-892-2428 to learn more about how Aquatic Therapy might benefit you!