Every year, almost nine million people receive physical therapy (PT) for their pain and mobility issues. One of the more popular forms of PT is aquatic therapy. These sessions involve treatments and exercises performed in a water environment for therapeutic purposes.
Some patients are reluctant to attend aquatic therapy sessions because they have several misconceptions about the process. In a recent column, "Embracing My Inner Alien," SMA News Today columnist Kevin Schaefer demystifies the aquatic therapy process for patients.
Why Schaefer Began Aquatic Therapy
Schaefer started aquatic therapy because of physical issues he faced related to spinal muscular atrophy. SMA is the most common cause of genetic mutation-related deaths in infants. This neurodegenerative disease causes progressive muscle weakness because of the loss of motor neurons.
SMA has left Schaefer wheelchair-bound and his doctor warned him that if he didn't go to PT, he would develop osteoporosis and stiffened muscles. "Thankfully, my doctor's and parents have always been patient with me, even when my stubbornness was at its peak," Schaefer said. "I knew that PT would not only be good for my health; it was also necessary." Schaefer began PT in 2015 and has attended sessions for four years. He says the pool waters allow him to feel free since he can kick and swim the water. Now, his aquatic therapy session is one of his favorite activities.
How to Overcome Your Aquatic-Therapy-Related Concerns
According to Schaefer, physical therapy once seemed pointless, but he is now happy that his doctor was persistent. He addressed two concerns patients may have about physical therapy.
- Attend Your PT Sessions - Some people believe that aquatic won't benefit them, but it can help build muscles. Patients must attend their physical therapy sessions regularly before they'll see any progress. Schaefer says that patients make time for things that are important to them. If they can do their favorite hobbies, they can also prioritize aquatic therapy.
- The Transfer Process to the Pool is a Smooth One - Another issue that physical therapy patients may fear during aquatic therapy is the transfer process. Schaefer said he didn't like people (other than his parents) to help him into the water. His attitude evolved. During the sessions, he learned that the physical therapists were supportive and communicated well.
Benefits of Aquatic Therapy
Patients who begin aquatic therapy will see four major benefits.
- Hydrostatic Pressure Helps Your Muscles Perform Well - Water compresses the skin, muscles, and joints using hydrostatic pressure. The pool places the chest cavity under direct pressure and forces the heart and lungs to work harder.
- Resistance Tones Muscles - Aquatic therapy tones atrophied muscles faster. The water also reduces a person's chances of injuring themselves.
- Improves Circulation and Muscle Relaxation - Aquatic Therapy places your heart under constant pressure. The warm water also improves circulation and promote healing within your body. It also carries lactic acid away from the muscles and promotes relaxation.
- Fun Environment - Most people enjoy aquatic therapy because it's a relaxed place to exercise in. It feels like a trip to the beach during the summer. The pool environment prevents patients from getting discouraged when exercising.
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If interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Healthcare section of our blog.
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