Frederick Sport & Spine is one of very few clinics in the Frederick area that has a therapeutic pool. We know first-hand how the aquatic environment can be a game changer for many of our patients!
There are numerous benefits to physical therapy in the aquatic setting:
Our pool is a warm water therapeutic pool heated between 92-94 degrees. It feels amazing! You won’t be dipping into cold water that takes your breath away, which is a pleasant surprise for our patients. The warmth of our pool is beneficial at reducing soft tissue tension, stiffness, and pain. Those suffering from arthritis find the warm water to be especially beneficial.
Our pool is 4 ½ feet deep. For most of our patients, this means that the water level is in between waist height and chest height. When the water level is at waist height, the patient is getting about 50% weight bearing support from the water; at chest height, the patient is getting about 75% weight bearing support. This allows a patient to walk and move with less impact and force through their lower body, back and legs. The buoyancy of the water makes the pool a great treatment option for patients suffering from back or lower body pain. We even treat many patients in the pool who have had surgery on their back or lower body (after their surgical site has healed and they are cleared by their doctor/surgeon). Many patients who have lower body weakness are also pleased with how the buoyancy of the water allows them to independently move with ease compared to outside of the pool; this gives patients reliant on assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers and canes, the ability to move, strengthen their bodies, and improve their balance in a safe environment. We also have the ability to put platforms in our pool to reduce the depth of the water to 3 ½ feet, allowing us to treat patients within a large spectrum of heights.
Our aquatic patients receive the benefit of moving against the natural resistance of the water, which helps to facilitate muscle activation and increase strength. We also use a variety of equipment, which utilizes both the water resistance and buoyancy, to help our patients increase strength.
Proprioception and Balance
Proprioception is awareness of your body’s position and movement. If you are lacking optimal proprioception, your balance will suffer. When you are moving in the aquatic environment, the sensation of the water pressure against your body and limbs can be helpful in improving your body awareness and proprioception. In addition, the aquatic environment is a safe environment to perform activities that challenge your balance; the buoyancy of the water gives you more time to make small movements and adjustments to maintain your balance.
There are a variety of ways we incorporate aquatic therapy into a patient’s treatment. Every patient gets an individualized plan of care, meaning that some patients may benefit from a majority of treatments in the aquatic environment and some patients may alternate between the aquatic setting and PT treatment on land (which we jokingly refer to as “surf and turf” treatment). Your primary physical therapist who evaluates you will help determine your physical therapy plan of care and what role aquatic therapy will play in your treatment.
About the Author
Faryn Dunn is a Physical Therapist Assistant at Frederick Sport and Spine Clinics. Aquatic physical therapy is one of her areas of specialty. Faryn also has a background in personal training and enjoys working with individuals with a wide variety of activity levels and exercise backgrounds. With her experience as a personal trainer and a PTA, she believes in a multifaceted approach to treating patients, using manual therapy and specific exercises to improve body mechanics, increase strength, increase flexibility and improve balance to help patients improve their level of functioning.