What is hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy, derived from the Greek word meaning ‘healing’, is therapeutic treatment aimed at improving function, movement and quality of life involving exercise, including walking and swimming, conducted in a controlled warm water environment. Exercise in water is proven to be an effective method to gain faster results.
The hydrotherapy treadmill is the most flexible water therapy treatment available and has a wide range of uses to assist with:
The benefits of hydrotherapy include:
Less impact on joints due to reduced weight bearing environment
Increase in range of motion of affected joints
Increase muscle bulk, strength and tone
Relief from pain, swelling and stiffness
Retraining normal walking patterns
Improved core stability and balance
Improved cardiovascular fitness
Increased psychological well-being and motivation
How the Properties of Water Benefit Patients:
The encompassing warmth of the water relaxes muscles and increases the skin temperature which can bring about a decrease in pain and muscle spasm. A decreased range of motion can often be due to pain, swelling or stiffness. Stiffness can be eased as the warmth of the water causes blood vessels to expand. This thermal effect can warm superficial joints during exercise and maintain circulation, important for soft tissue injuries and arthritic joints.
This is the upwards thrust of water against the body reducing the effect of gravity. The water height can be increased in the treadmill to provide varying buoyancy and weight bearing. Buoyancy decreases the loading onto weight bearing joints, removes the impact associated with walking on dry land and aids assistance with balance. Provides pain relief and the buoyancy of the water will help move the stiff joint with further range of movement with minimal exercise.
This is the pressure exerted on the surface of the body by water at a given depth. As the water height in the hydrotherapy treadmill is variable, it can be increased which in turn increases the hydrostatic pressure. Benefits animals with reduced balance (e.g neurological conditions as it helps stabilise the body). Swelling can be reduced and pain perception is reduced allowing them to perform movements in water that they find difficult on land.
Water molecules adhere together. The greatest cohesive force is at the surface of the water and increased resistance is required to break the cohesion. Adjusting the water levels in the treadmill allows us to increase workload on a specific muscle group or joint, whilst also protecting a specific area if required, for example post surgically.
Viscosity is essentially the thickness of the water which offers more support and resistance. Viscosity can assist in stabilising an unstable joint. Buoyancy and viscosity prevent the dog falling by increasing the time span for the dog to react, this can make the dog more confident and willing to move in the water.
The water height can be varied in the underwater treadmill to determine the flexion and extension angle of a specific joint. Generally flexion is greatest with water at or above the joint of interest and extension is greatest with water below the joint of interest; it is not possible to fluctuate this whilst swimming and a valuable benefit can be lost.