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Aquatic Therapy: A Dip in the Pool Is Healthier Than You Think

July 21, 2022

There’s nothing like relaxing in the pool. Whether you’re going for a swim, playing Marco Polo, or floating in a tube, being in the water just feels good. 

As you might expect, there are scientific reasons for the feel-good nature of a dip in the pool that go far beyond cooling off on a hot day. 

Immersing yourself in water takes pressure off your joints and relaxes your muscles. If you’re recovering from an injury or surgery or dealing with chronic pain or swelling, water can help you move more freely with less risk as you improve your balance, coordination, mobility, and range of motion.

Water is both assistive and resistive. For example, walking in a pool decreases the impact on weight-bearing joints by more than 50 percent but also provides gentle, consistent resistance that helps you build endurance and strength. And who wouldn’t want to walk in a pool instead of on a treadmill or sidewalk?

Interestingly, when you increase the speed of a movement underwater, you feel more resistance. In other words, the harder you push, the harder water pushes back. At the same time, deeper water means more buoyancy and less pressure on joints but more resistance for more muscle groups.

The upward push of buoyancy is caused by hydrostatic pressure, the force of water pressing against you. Hydrostatic pressure can increase blood flow to promote healing, help move toxins through the body, lower blood pressure, improve sensory awareness, and increase the release of endorphins in the body to reduce stress and anxiety.

Everything I’ve just mentioned can support your immune system and reduce inflammation and pain. 

How to Get Started with Aquatic Therapy

When you hear a term like “aquatic therapy,” you might think of expensive underwater treadmills, stationary bicycles, and specialized therapy pools. Unless you have access to a professional or college sports training facility or a major medical center’s rehabilitation center, these probably aren’t realistic options.

If you have a pool, you can try aquatic therapy. If you don’t have a pool or know someone with a pool, see if there’s a public pool in the area. Look into a membership at a gym with a pool. You can even find a nearby lake or river that’s calm and safe! 

Of course, if you’re going to do anything beyond very basic movements and light swimming, we recommend speaking with a professional trainer or physical therapist who understands aquatic therapy. Also, keep in mind that aquatic therapy isn’t for everyone. 

For example, aquatic therapy can create elevated risk for people with cardiac disease because hydrostatic pressure can actually increase blood pressure in and around the heart.

Our clinicians often have conversations with patients about exercises they can do in the water because there are so many benefits. There are a number of specialized movements that can be performed to address certain conditions.

Basic aquatic therapy equipment like webbed gloves and paddles is fairly inexpensive and easy to find in stores and online. We can help you find the appropriate equipment based on your condition and goals or show you basic movements that don’t require equipment. 

Remember, water can be an extremely effective and enjoyable fitness and rehabilitation tool. Think about making it part of your regular exercise routine, and don’t be afraid to do what I always tell kids to do – go outside and play!

Dr. Proodian

Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician, health educator, and professional public speaker who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise is in identifying clinical imbalances and restoring the body to health and functionality. Contact: jproodian@naturalhc.com or (732) 222‑2219.