Physical therapists utilize aquatic therapy to help their patients recover from a number of different conditions, including back pain. Back pain is a common ailment that affects people of all ages. In fact, it can originate from any number of circumstances or conditions, including heredity, strenuous exercise, not exercising at all or heavy lifting. It also affects those with obesity, arthritis, some cancers, scoliosis, pregnancy, fibromyalgia, kidney stones, accidents and more.
When treating people with back pain, physical therapists often run into difficulties during traditional therapy. The normal force of gravity pulls at the body, which can cause added stressors – and therefore increased pain – for the patient. Thus, the patient may be reluctant to continue the therapeutic exercises because he feels sore afterwards and doesn’t see or feel the progress he might be making.
Aquatic Therapy Provides Relaxing Back-Pain Treatment with Proven Results
With aquatic therapy, physical therapists have the ability to overcome some of the land-therapy objections and concerns that can hamper the success of individuals suffering from back pain. The first advantage is that the water provides a buoyancy that compensates for much of the patient’s weight. A person who weighs 150 pounds may feel like he weights closer to 30 pounds in the water; his spine will respond favorably and not feel as drawn downward.
Another benefit of aquatic therapy is that it provides a safer environment to those who have a fear of falling. Many patients with back pain also suffer from problems with balance, especially if the back pain causes their legs to become numb or tingle. Specialized therapy pools offer railings, not to mention the side of the pool, so that patients always have something to grab onto and secure themselves. Additionally, a physical therapist can work alongside the patient and can help him achieve balance.
Finally, aquatic therapy in a warm-water therapy pool provides natural relief. Muscles respond to the warmth and soothing atmosphere; this helps set the stage for a relaxing experience. The warm water also assists in “massaging” the painful areas through hydrostatic pressure that acts almost like a compression sock.
In case studies, patients suffering from back pain not only like the soothing environment, but also seem to quickly regain some abilities that they can transfer to land. Such is the case of a teenage patient who was battling back pain after a sudden sports injury.
Case Study: HydroWorx Aquatic Therapy Patient from Tennessee
When a young male high school student from Tennessee tried to steal home during an intense baseball game, he collided with another player. The impact sent him right to the emergency room, where technicians performed routine X-rays, CT scans and an MRI. The results came back as negative, but the 17-year-old was unable to attend school for two weeks due to the numbness in his legs. Five months after his accident, he was still in severe pain and couldn’t enjoy athletic endeavours.
At this point, he was referred to a local aquatic physical-therapy clinic with a specialized therapy pool. The physical therapists started him in the HydroWorx pool on his first day, having him walk on the underwater treadmill to begin to build the strength in his lower extremities and loosen up his back muscles. Within a period of about a week, his trunk muscles had stopped “guarding” his lower back, and inflammation was reduced to the point where he could begin to engage in plyometric activities underwater such as jumps, power step-ups and lunges. He is reportedly on his way back to the baseball diamond.
Without aquatic therapy, this teenage boy might have had to live with the excruciating pain in his back that had forced him to be idle for several months following his accident. As he and others like him have discovered, the water can open doors to what may feel like medical miracles.
About The Author: Alicia is a “Jill of all trades.” She writes about DIY projects, home advice and health on her blog Homey Improvements, works as a freelance writer, and helps a variety of clients with content marketing.