In our last post we explored the unique properties of aquatic therapy and the importance of being guided by a trained physiotherapist who understands how to utilise these properties. This post is looking more closely at the benefits to people with a neurological condition. If that sounds like you- please read ahead!
Aquatic therapy is often used as a rehabilitation tool for clients post stroke whilst they’re still recovering in hospital and can be continued in the community. The good news is that there is lots of research supporting the use of aquatic therapy for people who have had a stroke. One recent paper reviewed 19 different studies of patients in different stages of their recovery post stroke. These studies used aquatic techniques such as treadmill walking, Ai Chi and Halliwick. It concluded that aquatic therapy was more effective then land based therapy for improving aspects of mobility and balance (Iliescu et al.,2020). That being said, aquatic therapy is not appropriate for everyone who has had a stroke and it is not recommended without close supervision and guidance from a Physiotherapist.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS):
Many believe that people with MS do not benefit from aquatic therapy as the heated pool is often not tolerated. Whilst this can be true, there are still benefits to participating in aquatic therapy in a pool that is slightly cooler than the average hydrotherapy pool.
There is a recent study that reviewed 10 trials (including randomised controlled trials, experimental and pilot studies) using techniques such as Ai Chi, aquatic cycling and aerobic exercises in pools ranging from 27-29 deg celsius. This study found aquatic therapy led to improvements in pain, mental health and fatigue levels (Corvello et al.,2017).
Spinal Cord Injury:
Traditional aquatic therapy as well as swimming can be beneficial for clients with complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries. One particular study reviewed 15 different randomised controlled trials including both complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries across different stages of recovery. These trials explored propelling wheelchairs in water, walking training and upright strength based exercises. Some of the benefits found were: Improved cardiovascular function compared to land therapy, increased aerobic capacity due to lowered heart rate and enhanced temperature regulation, reduced muscle tightness and spasticity and improved walking ability. Speaking from my personal clinical experience, I have seen many clients with spinal cord injuries benefit mentally and physically from swimming and often rely on this as a form of aerobic exercises. A trained Physiotherapist can guide your transfers in and out of the pool, provide you with a personalised program and even improve your swimming technique.
There are many other neurological conditions that may benefit from aquatic therapy including brain injury, Parkinson’s Disease and other Movement disorders.
The evidence speaks for itself! the benefits of aquatic therapy are numerous for people living with neurological conditions! In order to identify if aquatic therapy is beneficial for you, please feel free to contact us.