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Why hydrotherapy is so effective for joint & back pain

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is a form a physiotherapy that utilises the physical properties of water to assist in exercise and rehabilitation. Hydro involves performing specific exercises while partially submerged in water to achieve individual goals including (but not limited to) building strength, promoting greater mobility and range of motion, and providing pain relief.

In a nutshell, hydrotherapy is exercising with your physio in the comfort and safety of a heated pool!

How does it work?

The benefits of hydrotherapy are due to a number of physical and thermal effects.

Lower-impact Exercise

First and foremost, the weightlessness felt when submerged in the water removes a large amount of load from symptomatic joints, muscles and nerves. This effect is due to Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy stating that; a body completely or partially submerged in a fluid (gas or liquid) at rest is acted upon by an upward force that is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the body. Putting this simply: the more your body is underwater, the less you weigh!

A basic approximation is at waist depth you are 50% of your body weight, at chest depth: 25%, and at neck depth: 10%. The potential benefit of this phenomenon in hydrotherapy is the ability to stand, move and exercise with considerably less load on injured and symptomatic areas of the body. This can allow an individual to move joints, strengthen muscles and practice tasks that they may not have been able to perform outside of the water.

Circulation and Swelling

Another physical property of water that provides benefits to hydrotherapy is hydrostatic water pressure. This is basically the pressure created by the weight of water around your body, which produces a compressive force. This mimics the effect of compression bandages and stockings to decrease swelling and improving circulation.

Respiration

Water pressure also compresses the ribcage, presenting a greater challenge to the respiratory system and increasing the work of breathing. This doesn’t make it noticeably more difficult to breath while doing hydrotherapy, however with properly prescribed exercises it can be utilised to achieve cardiovascular fitness goals.

Heat/cold

Additionally, thermal factors can also help you feel better, faster. Whether the pool is heated or not, either can have positive effects on circulation, inflammation and pain modulation.

Is Hydrotherapy for me?

There aren’t many musculoskeletal conditions that wouldn’t benefit from hydrotherapy, but here are some examples of conditions that we suggest hydrotherapy for;

  • Osteoarthritis/joint pain
  • Chronic low back pain
  • Hip/knee replacement rehabilitation
  • Spinal surgery rehabilitation
  • Joint reconstruction rehabilitation
  • Acute sports injuries

These specific conditions can have great benefits from hydrotherapy, however if you’re unsure if hydrotherapy is for you, have a chat to your physio and you can make a plan together.

Hydrotherapy is currently offered through our Everton Park and Keperra clinics. To enquire about hydrotherapy, simply contact the friendly staff at one of these clinics.