Suffering from a serious or athletically related injury? Long since past are the days when this meant taking weeks or even months off from working out. Thanks to current technology in aquatic therapy patients and athletes alike can still stay active even during injury. Hundreds of companies manufacture various models of underwater cardio equipment such as elliptical trainers, stair steppers, and stationary bikes. Probably the most popular is the underwater treadmill. These pieces of equipment allow you to walk, run, swim, and even perform drills and plyometrics. Some of these machines actually elevate and depress into the water to allow variation in depth, others allow you to raise and lower the water of the pool in which it is immersed, still others offer incline features on the actual treadmill.
Aquatic therapy allows you to workout in an environment that provides buoyancy thereby making it low-impact. The hydrostatic pressure increases blood flow to the tissues and decreases inflammation. Depending on the type and severity of your injury this may mean earlier opportunity for rehabilitation and quicker recovery. Rehabilitation on one of these treadmills can help maintain cardiovascular efficiency, increase strength and range of motion, and decrease stress on joints.
Some of these pieces of treadmills are equipped monitors which allow for gait analysis and biomechanical corrections; they also serve as a safety feature. Some also come with attachable hoses which are secured over the jets and can be utilized for massage purposes to flush lactic acid from fatigued muscles, assist with myofascial release and scar tissue manipulation, or simply for pain management.
This type of therapy can be useful for those who suffer from arthritis, disc injury, recovery from stress fractures/reactions, bursitis, tendonitis etc. It can also be useful in injury prevention for those elite athletes who log a significant numbers of miles per week. Some physicians recommend it for prenatal patients due to its low-impact characteristic. Lastly for those who train animals, some companies have even designed underwater treadmills for dogs and horses!
So what if you do not have access to a clinic or institution with the funding for one of these large and expensive pieces of equipment? You can still benefit from aquatic therapy in your local lap pool. If your physician, athletic trainer, or therapist has recommended you to participate in non weight bearing exercise you can aqua jog in the deep end of the pool by wearing aqua jogger belt around your waist and treading water. Swimming is also a great non-impact cardiovascular exercise. Upper body injury? Use a kick board and rest your arms! Lower extremity injury? Squeeze a buoy between your legs and pull your legs with your arms. Other items can be purchased to increase resistance such as aqua dumbbells, ankle cuffs etc.
Remember this type of therapy might not be suitable for all types of injuries and you should always consult your physician first. But for many it can help to keep you in shape and to prevent the depression and disappointment that often accompanies injury.
Posted by Heather Cobb LAT, ATC