Rebecca Giles, a physical therapist at ATI Physical Therapy, spends a lot of time in the pool…but she’s not swimming. Giles combines her love for physical therapy and competitive swimming by providing patients with aquatic therapy.
Today, Giles debunks some common aquatic therapy myths and fears (nope, you don’t have to know how to swim to do aquatic therapy!) and gives us some insight into her wet world of physical therapy…
Myth: You have to know how to swim to do aquatic therapy.
Truth: You don’t have to know how to swim at all, Giles says. An aquatic therapy pool is typically only about four to five feet deep, so most patients are still able to stand. (At Essex, they have a deep end that is seven feet, but patients never have to go there if they’re afraid.) Giles gives her patients floatation devices and enters the pool with them if they’re uneasy about aquatic therapy.
Myth: Aquatic therapy is only for people with back pain or chronic pain.
Truth: Although aquatic therapy can provide relief to people with back pain or chronic pain, many types of patients can benefit from aquatic therapy. Because patients can begin doing weight bearing activities in the pool that they may not otherwise be able to do on land, they accelerate the healing process. For example, an ACL injury patient may be able to do some aquajogging three to four weeks after their surgery, which wouldn’t be possible on land.
Myth: I can’t move as well in the pool as I can on land.
Truth: In the pool, gravity is not overpowering so patients can actually move much more freely than they can on land. Giles notes that the water can provide a distraction to the spine while floating, opening up the joints and decreased gravity allows patients to bear weight with less pain.
Myth: The pool is really cold because you warm up doing exercises.
Truth: The pool is actually kept very warm (typically around 94-96 degrees). The warm water creates a great environment to effectively treat arthritis patients. With floatation, it can also provide distraction to joints of spine, hips, and knees.
Myth: My whole time in physical therapy will be spent in the pool.
Truth: For most patients, the ultimate goal is to transition to land-based therapy. Therefore, many patients do a combination of aquatic and land therapy to help them achieve the best outcomes.