As one of the oldest forms of treatment around, hydrotherapy has been practiced since ancient times to improve, restore and maintain good health.

There is now plenty of scientific evidence to promote the use of hydrotherapy in many different ways – from treating chronic conditions and managing pain, to strength training and rehabilitation after surgery or a major injury.

Want to learn more about hydrotherapy, how it works and its health benefits? Here is a quick guide to get you started.

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy – sometimes known as known as aquatic physiotherapy – is a type of treatment that involves exercising in water. It is conducted by an experienced physiotherapist or exercise physiologist in a shallow pool of warm water that is heated to around 33 to 36 degrees Celsius (warmer than a regular swimming pool).

You can do hydrotherapy one-on-one with a specially trained health practitioner, or in a group class at a centre. Exercises performed in hydrotherapy tend to focus on balancing and moving your upper
limbs, lower limbs and trunk in order to gain therapeutic benefits.

How does hydrotherapy work?

Hydrotherapy relies on the weightless environment created by an aquatic environment.

Water is buoyant and reduces the effect of gravity, which means there is less resistance on your body when you move through it. Because there is less stress on your muscles and joints, you are able to perform movements that you are unable to do on land, or find too painful. This makes it easier to do exercises that increase your muscle strength, endurance, flexibility and overall fitness.

The pool’s warm temperature also has therapeutic benefits. When the human body is immersed in warm water, the muscles relax (alternatively, muscles tense up in cold water). This helps improve their elasticity, which allows the muscles to be stretched more easily and without pain.

Do I need to be able to swim to receive hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is very different from swimming. You do not need to be able to swim in order to do the exercises or join a class, as the pool is shallow enough to stand – usually at about chest height. If you are nervous about water, your therapist will be close by to provide any assistance or supervision that you need.

At what age can you do hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is a versatile treatment that is appropriate for people of all ages, from young children to seniors with health issues.

Children with developmental problems or disability can benefit from the water’s therapeutic effects in a fun and engaging environment. A hydrotherapy program can help improve them improve their range of movement, flexibility, head control, posture, muscle tone, strength, coordination and balance while standing or walking.

What conditions can hydrotherapy treat?

Hydrotherapy can help with a wide range of conditions and injuries, including:

  • Arthritis and related rheumatic complaints
  • Back or neck pain
  • General joint pain
  • Fractures and other forms of trauma
  • Cancer – rehabilitation and symptom management
  • Mobility and balance problems
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Scoliosis
  • Orthopaedic conditions
  • Neurological conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • The need for post-operative rehabilitation following major surgery (e.g. hip or knee replacements)
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Đa xơ cứng
  • Stroke

What are the proven benefits of hydrotherapy treatment?

Hydrotherapy has many benefits for people of all abilities, ages and fitness levels. Some of the proven benefits of the therapy are:

Pain management

Hydrotherapy treatment can help with lots of different types of skeletomuscular pain, as the buoyancy of the water lowers the impact on joints when you move while the warm water allows your muscles to relax. It can also help you perform core exercises you can’t do on land to help reduce back or neck pain, due to the supportive environment of the water.

Pre-surgery preparation and post-surgery rehabilitation

Some operations (for example, joint or hip replacements) may benefit from pre-surgery exercises in a hydrotherapy pool to strengthen the muscles around the affected area. Hydrotherapy can also promote better recovery after surgery, and help to restore mobility and range of movement.

Perform therapeutic exercises that are difficult out of water

Exercising in a warm pool allows you to perform movements you may not ordinarily be able to do on land. People with arthritis, for example, experience pain and inflammation when they exercise on land. Moving in water allows their joints to move with minimal compression through them, giving them an opportunity to strengthen their bodies with less pain.

Improves muscle elasticity

Exercising in a warm water hydrotherapy pool allows your muscles to relax and reduces muscle spasms. This helps improve elasticity as your muscles can be stretched more easily – and with less pain – compared to exercising on land.

Improves muscle strength

The water in a hydrotherapy pool can provide resistance to moving your body. You can improve your muscle strength by pushing your arms and legs against the water, which helps build up your fitness.

Promotes circulation in the body

The hydrostatic pressure of water helps promote better circulation in the body. This means vital nutrients and oxygen can be supplied to the muscles in the rest of the body, promoting recovery and reducing swelling.

Safe exercise after injury or trauma

After a major injury or fall, most people are unable to move the affected area or bear weight on it for a significant length of time. Specialists may allow hydrotherapy sessions during this period, as a way to maintain fitness and build strength in a gentle and supportive environment.

Improve overall fitness and mental health

Hydrotherapy doesn’t just help build strength and mobility – it can also give people who experience health barriers to exercise an opportunity to get out of the house, have fun and improve their overall fitness and mental health.

Is Hydrotherapy safe?

Hydrotherapy is a safe form of treatment with scientifically proven benefits. It must be delivered by a qualified physiotherapist or exercise physiologist with special training, who is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

To ensure the therapy is accessible for everyone, your physiotherapist will use any functional equipment needed – for example, hydraulic chairs, flotation devices and handrails – to help you get in and out of the pool and move around in the water. They also will take a detailed medical history,
and examine your body function and range of movement. If appropriate, they may also liaise with your doctor to ensure you are able to safely take part in hydrotherapy classes or individual sessions.

Although hydrotherapy can help with a variety of conditions, if you have diabetes or a heart-related condition, you should seek advice from a doctor before considering treatment.

Hydrotherapy, NDIS and disability

Hydrotherapy has many proven benefits for people living with disability. It can help you work on your balance, improve your coordination, increase your strength and function, and build up your aerobic capacity. This can help you gain independence in daily living and improve your overall quality
of life.

Taking part in hydrotherapy sessions can also provide an opportunity for social engagement, especially if you are taking part in a group session. There are also mental benefits to getting out and exercising regularly, such as experiencing a lift in mood and feeling more confident.

If you are living with a disability, hydrotherapy treatment can be funded by your NDIS package, under the categories Improved Daily Living Skills and Improved Health and Wellbeing.

For more information on how to access hydrotherapy services with your NDIS funding, please get in touch with HomeCaring for a FREE consultation.

Hydrotherapy and seniors

Hydrotherapy offers a gentle and relaxing form of exercise for seniors, especially if you struggle with mobility, disease, chronic pain or have a limited range of movement. Here are some of the many benefits hydrotherapy can offer the older members of our community:

  • A way to exercise without experiencing pain, due to the buoyancy of the pool minimising impact on joints
  • Muscle relaxation from the warm water and reduced muscle spasms
  •  Decreased swelling due to hydrostatic pressure of the water
  • An opportunity to increase muscle strength in a supportive environment, as water provides resistance when you move your arms and legs
  • A great way to keep fit and improve your overall fitness, especially if you are unable to exercise or walk effectively on land due to pain or chronic disease
  • Relief from common conditions such as arthritis, and helps increase range of movement
  • Improve your balance, coordination and flexibility
  • An effective form of post-operative rehabilitation, especially if you have had a joint replacement, tendon repair or orthopaedic surgeries
  • An opportunity to enjoy social aspect of exercising with others, especially if you are doing hydrotherapy in a group setting
  • A non-invasive and non-surgical treatment option for many conditions, including chronic pain

If you would like to learn more about how to incorporate hydrotherapy into your care plan, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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