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Orthopaedic conditions, medical conditions, and neurological disorders may reduce your ability to bear weight on your legs, tolerate the impact exercise on land, or move against the forces of gravity. Aquatic therapy is a rehabilitation option that allows people to exercise in a water environment. The water provides support, buoyancy, and gentle resistance during exercise. Aquatic therapy is helpful for people with many types of orthopaedic conditions; neurological disorders that affect movement such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury; or medical conditions that affect joint or muscle integrity, such as arthritis, amputation, muscle spasms, chronic pain, post-polio syndrome, pregnancy, and post-mastectomy.

You do not need to know how to swim to participate in aquatic therapy and aquatic therapy is not the same thing as swimming lessons. For your safety and comfort, you may use flotation devices and have direct assistance or supervision of a qualified therapist during your treatments. Aquatic therapists are physical therapists or occupational therapists that have received additional training in aquatic therapy principles.
Your aquatic therapist will evaluate your baseline strength, limitations, and functional skill level and also assess your muscle movements, coordination, balance, and endurance. You should tell your aquatic therapist about any concerns or difficulties that you have. The evaluation and your input are used to formulate a customized treatment plan that includes specific short term and long term goals. Aquatic therapy may be provided in one-on-one or group sessions.
The controlled heat setting of a therapy pool can be helpful for easing pain , increasing circulation, relaxing tense muscles, and decreasing stress. You will learn specific exercises to target your affected areas. You may gain strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and range of motion. With the reduction of gravity in the pool, you may find that you can perform movements that you cannot do on land. Your aquatic therapy program will be upgraded as you progress in treatment. You may advance to an independent aquatic therapy program or a land program.
Prior to participating in aquatic therapy, you will need a prescription and medical release to do so from your physician. Some people may not be candidates for aquatic therapy because of specific contradictions, such as open wounds. Most people find aquatic therapy to be beneficial and enjoyable. However, aquatic therapy rehabilitation is not considered a treatment for weight reduction because it is not an excellent source of aerobic exercise.
This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit