The Benefits of Aquatic Physiotherapy for Rehabilitation and Pain Relief

benefits of aquatic physiotherapy
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Aquatic therapy is a safe and effective treatment for many conditions. It offers a variety of benefits for rehabilitation and pain relief.

Buoyancy reduces the effect of gravity on joints, making it easier to move and flex muscles. The water’s natural resistance can also increase strength training.

Warm water increases blood flow, soothing achy muscles and promoting muscle repair. The turbulence and wave propagation of the water can also force respiratory muscles to work harder, helping patients breathe better.


Aquatic therapy is a form of physical therapy that takes place in a warm water pool. It is used for patients who have limited mobility due to injury or illness and are having difficulty getting around. It’s also beneficial for people who have balance issues because it helps them exercise without worrying about falling.

The benefits of aquatic physiotherapy include pain relief, improved strength, and faster rehabilitation progressions. It uses the physical properties of water, such as buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, surface tension, and viscosity to enhance rehabilitation. It unloads the spine and joints, assists or resists movement, and increases lung performance.

“The natural buoyancy of the water makes it easier to perform exercises. It also decreases joint and soft tissue swelling” says Luke Peterson, Director & Senior Physiotherapist at Eastside Physiotherapy & Co. In addition, the water’s natural pressure provides resistance for muscle strengthening and decreases pain. The therapist can also vary the level of resistance to accommodate different patient needs. People who participate in therapeutic aquatic exercises improve their disability score by an average of -1.77 points after a 3-month trial and -0.64 points at 6 months (P.001). Their improvement is not affected by age, sex, low back pain duration, or educational level.

Principles of Aquatic Physiotherapy

Acute injuries and chronic conditions requiring rehabilitation often respond well to aquatic therapy. This is because the body’s natural buoyancy in water reduces the amount of stress placed on joints and muscles while providing a safe environment to perform therapeutic exercises.

This allows for the use of a greater range of motion and decreases pain, discomfort, and inflammation. Additionally, the water provides resistance to increase muscle strength and endurance. The physical therapist can use a variety of techniques to promote proprioception, enhance balance, and improve cardiovascular endurance.

Many clients feel comfortable in the warm water which increases patient compliance to their treatment plan. The water also de-sensitizes pain and serves as a counter-irritant, which reduces muscle guarding and spasm while promoting blood flow and oxygen to injured tissues. This allows a physical therapist to take a more aggressive approach with their client and initiate movement-based therapy earlier in the recovery process. Additionally, the movement-based therapies conducted in the water eliminate eccentric contractions, which are detrimental for long term rehabilitation.

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Principles of Aquatic Physiotherapy

Aquatic therapy takes advantage of the physical properties of water, especially buoyancy. When a person is submerged in water, 80% of their weight is eliminated, which reduces joint stress and allows for pain-free exercise. The warm water also increases range of motion and improves strength. Additionally, the water provides resistance that is both challenging and supportive.

Moreover, the warmth of the water desensitizes muscles and reduces muscle guarding and spasm. It also vasodilates blood vessels, which increases circulation and helps heal injured tissues. Furthermore, the uniform pressure of the water decreases joint swelling and improves proprioception (the ability to sense body position).

These benefits allow physical therapists to take a more aggressive approach with patients who have painful conditions or injuries. This allows them to achieve their rehab goals faster and improve mobility. The soothing environment and therapeutic exercises in the water can also increase patient satisfaction. This is particularly true for busy professionals or athletes who want to get back on the field sooner than they could with land-based exercise.

Conditions that Benefit from Aquatic Physiotherapy

The warm water in aquatic therapy sessions relaxes muscles and widens blood vessels, which increases blood flow to injured body parts. This helps reduce muscle soreness that is caused by the build-up of lactic acid. It also enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles and decreases inflammation. It also improves proprioception (the ability to sense the position of your limbs), which is beneficial for patients with joint or ligament injuries and arthritic conditions.

Additionally, movement within and against the resistance of water increases your muscle strength. This is because water is 600 times more resistant than air.

Aquatic physiotherapy is recommended for people with back pain, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. It is also helpful for those who cannot exercise on land because of pain, injury, or a medical condition. It is important to consult with your doctor before participating in aquatic physiotherapy. It is not recommended for patients with open wounds, uncontrolled diabetes, unstable angina, heart disease, or severe asthma. It is also not recommended for pregnant women or anyone who is afraid of being in the water.

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Techniques Used in Aquatic Physiotherapy

The buoyancy of water in therapy pools allows patients who are unable or uncomfortable to exercise on land to perform physical therapy and other exercises. It also helps relieve pain and decreases the impact of the movements on injured muscles, joints, and other tissues. The resistance of the water also helps strengthen muscles and increase balance, flexibility, and strength.

The warm temperature of the water increases patient comfort and provides a soothing environment for therapy. This enhances the patient’s overall experience and increases their motivation to attend therapy sessions. This is important because the more motivated a patient is, the more likely they are to adhere to their treatment plan and make progress toward their goals.

It is important to note that aquatic therapy is not for everyone and should only be performed by a licensed therapist. This is because some medical conditions, such as open wounds, bladder or bowel problems, high fever, or skin diseases, may be aggravated by aquatic exercise. Those with serious cardiovascular conditions should also consult with their cardiologist before participating in aquatic therapy.

Benefits of Aquatic Physiotherapy

The warm water of an aquatic therapy pool provides many physical benefits for patients. The natural buoyancy reduces the effects of gravity on joints, easing movements that would be painful or difficult on dry land. In addition, the water offers resistance that can strengthen muscles without increasing joint pressure.

The water also promotes muscle repair by delivering oxygen to the muscles. The turbulence of the water helps with balance, and aquatic therapy is often used for people with a high risk of falling due to balance issues.

Another benefit of aquatic therapy is that it can be used to treat conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic back pain. The calming effect of the warm water can help alleviate muscle spasms, reducing discomfort and helping the body heal.

Aquatic physiotherapy is also effective in treating lymphedema, which is swelling of the arms or legs caused by blockage of the lymphatic system. The hydrostatic pressure of the water can improve circulation and reduce swelling, enabling people with lymphedema to exercise more comfortably.

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How to Find a Qualified Aquatic Physiotherapist

The physical properties of water make it the perfect medium for exercise and rehabilitation. It provides support and buoyancy that reduces the effects of gravity, allowing people to build muscle without joint stress. It also offers gentle but effective resistance that helps individuals achieve strength and endurance crucial for overall health.

Additionally, the thermal properties of the water help with pain relief and increase blood circulation. This helps to promote healing and decrease lactic acid accumulation, which can cause stiff muscles.

Aquatic physiotherapy is an ideal choice for anyone experiencing chronic pain, injury, or disease. A licensed physical therapist who specializes in aquatic therapy can design, teach, and supervise therapeutic exercises that address your specific needs.

Contact Total Function Physical Therapy PC today to learn more about how aquatic physiotherapy can benefit your recovery and improve your quality of life. Our Colorado Springs, CO center offers guided aquatic therapy and other therapeutic exercises for a wide range of conditions and injuries. We look forward to hearing from you!


The natural buoyancy of water provides support for movement while reducing gravity’s effects on joints and muscles. This allows for exercise that is more difficult and painful on land, enabling the body to develop strength and movement patterns in an assistive environment. Water is also hundreds of times more resistive than air, which enables resistance training that enhances muscle development without the strain on muscles and joints experienced with land-based exercises.

For people with pain from an injury or who have difficulty participating in exercise because of a chronic condition, aquatic therapy offers the benefits of exercise with minimal joint stress and discomfort. Additionally, the warm water helps to decrease swelling and promotes faster healing after an injury.

Research has shown that therapeutic aqua therapy can significantly reduce the amount of pain a person feels, even in cases where their pain level is high. In addition, the warm water increases patient comfort and helps them look forward to their hydrotherapy sessions. These improvements in self-reported pain levels are not influenced by age, sex, body mass index, back pain duration or education level.