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Aquatic Therapy Helps Reduce Pain

Aquatic Therapy Can Help Relieve Your Pain

For many people, aquatic therapy provides respite from pain and limitations by allowing free movement in a near zero-gravity environment. While it may seem like magic, there’s actually a lot of science behind aquatic therapy. 

Aquatic therapy is a specific form of physical therapy. Research shows that water is the best environment to achieve optimal function, regardless of the injury. Warm water improves the range of motion and flexibility. Warm water also has massaging aspects that allow muscles to relax. This muscle relaxation has been linked to reducing pain perception for many patients. Even folks who are unskilled at swimming can greatly benefit from aquatic therapy.

The Science Behind Aquatic Therapy

Water creates a near zero-gravity setting. This means that a 200-pound person would only weigh 100 pounds in waist-deep water. When the depth is increased to the shoulder level, that same person would weigh only 20 pounds. That’s only 10% of their actual weight! 

The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy Include:

  • Warm water promotes muscle relaxation and increases overall blood circulation.
  • Water provides resistance for strength training.
  • Being submerged allows the entire exterior portion of the body to be touched by water. This process stimulates the nerves and helps improve body awareness, balance, and stability.
  • When submerged in water, patients benefit from reducing gravitational forces, making it possible to train and strengthen without causing further damage to the healing process.
  • Buoyancy in warm water decreases pain perception and improves the quality of life.
  • Exercises that are impossible on land become realistic and enjoyable when done in a near zero-gravity environment.

Aquatic Therapy Exercises

Aquatic Therapy Exercises

After a thorough, our licensed physical therapist will create an aquatic therapy exercise program specific to your needs. This may include:

Leg Raises – With one hand holding the side of the pool, extend one leg while the other leg is slightly bent. This will help stretch and strengthen the muscles in the hip, lower back, and leg.

Leg Strengthening – Tie a water noodle around your foot for this exercise. While standing with your back against the side of the pool, straighten your leg in front of you, then bend your knee to about a 90-degree position. This aquatic exercise will strengthen your leg muscles. Again, try to keep your core tight.

Back/Shoulder Stretch – While holding the side of the pool with both hands, extend the legs and body away from the side of the pool. This will stretch all parts of the back as well as the joints. It also stretches the shoulder muscles.

Lower Back/Hip/Leg Stretch – Stand on one leg, slightly bent, and the other leg is stretched out in front with a hand holding the side of the pool.

Pool Plank — While holding a noodle or some other flotation device straight in front of you with both arms, lean down and hold that position against the resistance for a few seconds.

One leg stand — Stand on one leg for about 30 seconds. This will engage your core and help with your balance. You may do this a couple of times on each leg during a session.

Arm Raise – Hold your arms at your sides, raise them to the height of your shoulders and back down. Keep the arm below the surface of the water throughout the exercise.

Push Downs – While in shoulder-deep water, place both hands in the middle of a pool noodle. Push the noodle down to touch the front of your thighs. Bend your elbows and allow the noodle to rise toward the surface when your elbows are parallel to your shoulders. Press back down to extend your arms and work your shoulders against resistance.

There’s Water Everywhere!

Our clinics are located at recreation centers offering therapy pools on their campus. Swimming is not a prerequisite. Instead, our physical therapists lead patients in safe movements that can be performed while standing in the water. If assistance is needed, patients may hold onto the side of the pool or even use a flotation device. Aquatic therapy helps improve patient confidence with each skill mastered during therapy. This confidence will improve life both in and out of the pool. (Aquatic Therapy at all locations except Applewood.)


Aquatic Rehabilitation is Often Prescribed Specifically For:

  • Arthritis
  • Neck and back pain
  • Low back pain
  • Joint pain from sports or daily repetitive activities
  • Orthopedic or neurological injuries
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Pain management
  • Difficulty with walking or mobility

To find out how aquatic therapy can benefit your recovery, contact our office today: 303-409-2133.