What You Need to Know About Aquatic Therapy


The first question that most people have about aquatic therapy is, “is it right for me?” The answer to that is easy, yes! Aquatic therapy is right for almost anyone, no matter your age, fitness level or injury. Whether you are an athlete recovering from an injury, or someone with arthritis dealing with intense pain – aquatic therapy can help alleviate your pain and speed up your recovery.

Dana Hoskins, PT, DPT, a Physical Therapist at St. Elizabeth Healthcare outlines what you need to know about aquatic therapy:

  • You do not need to be able to swim to have aquatic therapy, most therapy is in 4.5 feet of water.
  • Your body becomes buoyant in the water, so therapy in water lessens the pain associated with weight-bearing land exercises.
  • Water therapy is beneficial to anyone with arthritis, as it lessens the pain land-based, weight-bearing exercise may cause.
  • For athletes with an injury, water therapy provides little to no strain on your injury but allows you to maintain your cardiovascular conditioning.
  • You can often start higher-level exercises in aquatic therapy sooner than land-based therapy, so your recovery can progress more quickly.
  • Water therapy improves your tolerance of strengthening exercises and can return you to land-based activity more quickly.
  • Water therapy can help increased joint flexibility and mobility.
  • Water therapy is beneficial if you have balance issues, as the water prevents you from falling and getting hurt.
  • Water therapy can help with conditioning before joint replacement surgery or during cancer treatments.

Although water therapy has significant benefits, you may not be a candidate for aquatic therapy if:

  • You have open wounds or skin infections that cannot be covered with waterproof bandages.
  • You have bowel or bladder incontinence.
  • You need regular oxygen treatments.
  • You have seizures.

Hoskins adds, “After 4-6 weeks of aquatic therapy with a therapist next to you, you can often transition to a home-based water program or land-based therapy to continue your strengthening.”

The most important message is, if you find land-based therapy of exercise to painful, water can get you back to regular movement and weight-bearing more quickly and ease the pain of recovery.

If you think you would benefit from aquatic therapy, talk to your primary care physician. If you need help finding a primary care physician, please call (800) 737-7900.