ORA Physical Therapist Assistant, Caitlyn Mejia, explains how hydrotherapy can make a difference in the way patients recover from injuries and surgical procedures.
“Water works wonders,” affirms Aquatics Therapy Lead, Caitlyn Mejia, who oversees the Davenport and Moline therapy pools for ORA Physical Therapy.
“I’ve seen patients with complicated histories of mobility and strength loss, who had trouble even walking on their own, make great strides in their quality of life. The pool is a wonderful way to transition to dry land, and it’s gratifying to see what a difference the hydrotherapy can make.”
Caitlyn says water’s unique properties help regain function and mobility by taking the stress off joints and muscles as well as provide the kind of resistance to build athleticism you can’t always get on dry land activities. She also says therapy pools offer treatment for a wide range of conditions such as arthritis, acute and chronic back conditions, balance disorders, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, upper extremity injuries, and neurological challenges such as Parkinson’s.
Aquatic therapy is particularly beneficial for those with multiple conditions as you can treat the whole body rather than a specific part.
What makes water worth it?
Buoyancy: “Buoyancy takes the load and stresses off the joints and allows you to move freely with a greater range of motion while avoiding pain, making the tolerance for exercise in the water much greater than on land. with a lot less pain,” explains Caitlyn. This is helpful for post-surgical joint and orthopedic recovery to ease the patient into moving better without the jarring experience of dry land exercise.
Temperature: “Warmth relaxes soft tissues by relieving tension on the muscles and joints and provides a soothing effect which in turn helps to alleviate pain. It also helps promote increased circulation and neuromuscular relaxation throughout the entire body. At ORA, we keep our pools at 90-92 degrees to get the therapeutic response the patient needs.”
Hydrostatic pressure: Water pressure pushes against your body and provides health benefits. “Hydrostatic pressure decreases swelling and improves joint position and awareness,” Caitlyn explains. This pressure, combined with buoyancy, compresses the body, alleviating chronic pain, lymphedema, and sciatica.
Resistance: Water is also a constant source of resistance for muscles to push against in order to gain strength. This resistance also slows down body movements allowing for improved coordination and posture. Walking and running in the water improves cardiovascular performance, especially for those recovering from running or joint injuries that prohibit impact on dry land. “Both of ORA’s therapy pools have underwater treadmills we use for post-surgical recovery or for athletes who want to improve cardiovascular health without impact,” says Caitlyn.
“We can adjust the speed, use our underwater cameras to check your gait mechanics, and collect data on your overall progress. We also have multi-purpose therapy jets utilized to increase the turbulence of the water for tissue massage.”
What to expect in your aquatic therapy session.
“Our first priority is to get patients comfortable with your aquatic therapist. You will meet your therapist before your first appointment, discuss your goals for pool therapy, and a tour of the pool and on-site locker rooms and showers. ORA’s aquatic therapists are not only licensed PTs or PT Assistants (PTAs), but also have obtained specialized training specific to aquatic therapeutic exercise. Sessions usually last from 45 minutes to 1 hour for approximately three weeks up to several months, depending on your treatment plan.
“Typically, patients will bring swimsuits or whatever is most comfortable. A t-shirt and shorts are just fine… We also suggest you bring footwear for the pool and deck, a towel, a plastic water bottle for rehydration, and a snack if necessary.
“We can accommodate portable oxygen tanks, and our Moline location has a lift chair. We are in the water with you so we can provide direct care and feedback. The therapy session is 100% supervised.”
Caitlyn also says personalized therapy usually begins with a warm-up, mobility and resistance exercises, core strengthening, and cool-down; however, each treatment session is uniquely tailored to meet individualized patients’ needs. “The benefits are numerous. Patients improve in areas of strength, balance and coordination, joint mobility, and pain management. The water works wonders.”
Your Next Step
Reach out to your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist to see if you could benefit from aquatic therapy. If you are a candidate for aquatic therapy, our therapists will develop a customized program to decrease your pain and accelerate your recovery.