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Hydrotherapy: No One Said You Could Walk on Water, but You Can Certainly Walk in It!

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Bones & Joints related image Photo: Getty Images

Nothing soothes and calms like peaceful flowing waters. Water is a natural healing property for one’s mind, body, and soul. It’s peaceful to observe in its still form. Its sounds can be both soothing and hypnotic. As it dances across our skin, it blankets us in its comforting softness, especially when it is warm and embracing.

It is no surprise, then, that water can be used to alleviate pain, soreness, and stiffness when it comes to aching muscles and joints. My 106-year-old grandma is very wise to this approach. When I was a young girl, I spent many summer afternoons up at her local swimming pool engaging in a series of exercises with her while in the water. She repeatedly emphasized that not only was it a great workout, but that the stress was minimal on the joints, which was why she been able to continually enjoy her workouts, both in and out of the water, to this very day.

Hydrotherapy, also referred to as aquatic therapy, uses water to provide therapeutic benefits. When exercises are performed in the water, one can participate to a greater extent and for a longer period of time than when on land, as the increased temperature of the water allows for greater flexibility and circulation and reduces swelling. What is also interesting to note, and I have experienced this first-hand, is that exercising in water has a significant impact on land workouts in terms of increased speed and endurance.

A hydrotherapy swimming pool is designed specifically for hydrotherapy treatments. The main difference between this and a regular pool is the temperature, which is set at approximately 35 degrees Celsius. This lets the patient release stress and tension. If you have ever jumped into a cold swimming pool, you will immediately understand the difference! The increased temperature also promotes pain relief and increased circulation.

Hydrotherapy is very beneficial in treating a variety of soft tissue and bone injuries, as well as neuromuscular conditions, such as muscular dystrophy. Among the primary benefits of hydrotherapy include pain relief, a reduction in muscle spasms, strengthening of weak muscles, a wider range of joint motion, improved circulation, balance, and coordination, and it can also serve to re-educate paralyzed muscles. Further, the buoyancy of the water allows those individuals who otherwise could not exercise on land achieve that capability in water. The reduction in gravitational force is less stressful on the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips.

Hydrotherapy is a useful treatment for those with arthritis--both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It can reduce the pain, stiffness, and swelling for various back problems, as well as provide relief for frozen shoulder, ankle sprains, and groin strains.

Individuals who have undergone certain surgical procedures may also benefit from hydrotherapy as they recover, such as those who have had knee replacements, hip replacements, or ACL reconstruction.

Some types of exercises performed in hydrotherapy pools can include something as simple as merely floating on the water and benefiting from the warm temperature of the water. This is a great relaxation exercise. Depending upon the depth of the pool, walking in water is a great workout, using the resistance of the water while taking away the stress on the joints. Running in water is another great form of exercise. I once saw a show on television about a health club that has underwater treadmills, which made me wonder if they could adapt stationary bicycles for a similar purpose?

Despite the many benefits of hydrotherapy, there are certain circumstances where it is not advisable. If one has an acute injury where redness and heat are still evident, hydrotherapy should be avoided. If the individual has a fever, warming the entire body is not recommended. For those with heart conditions, the increased blood flow brought on by the temperature of the hydrotherapy pool can place undue stress upon the heart. Hydrotherapy is also not advised for those suffering from vascular conditions, hemorrhaging problems, kidney issues, and cancer.

I have to admit that I love warm water. Actually, I love hot water. After I return from my early morning runs, my favorite thing to do is hop in the shower (no time for a soak in the adjacent whirlpool tub!) and luxuriate in the steaming, flowing water. Within minutes, my body feels fully restored from my vigorous workout, and I am ready to face the day. If my husband should make a passing comment about how much hot water I am wasting, I can merely point out to him, “I’m hydrotherapizing myself!” Like that’s even a word, but he’ll never know!

(Information for this article was found at http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/cybertherapist/general/hydrotherapy.php and

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.