Understanding Aquatic Therapy for Rehabilitation

- Health -

3 min read. Written by Shirouz Elango

Aquatic therapy is a form of physical therapy that makes use of a swimming pool, or any environment with water for physical rehabilitation. Also known as aqua therapy, it has proved to be a promising method, especially for stroke patients. Suitable for all ages and most conditions, it is quickly becoming a popular rehabilitative method used by physiotherapists to help people recover quickly and improve their mobility, strength and flexibility.

Our Director and Principal Physiotherapist, Jaden Lim was recently interviewed by CNA938 to talk more about how aquatic therapy works and can be beneficial for rehabilitation. The interview covers a brief description of what aqua therapy is about, and how it can be used for rehab. Read on to find out more about this growing form of rehabilitation. 

Image: Jaden Lim performing aqua therapy with a patient

1. What is aqua therapy?

Aqua therapy is fundamentally performing rehabilitation or physiotherapy in a swimming pool or specialised therapy pool. Harnessing the unique properties of water, physiotherapists guide patients to perform exercises and specific movements to help improve their conditions.

2. In what way is water good as a therapeutic exercise medium?

Water has some fantastic properties that make it suitable for therapy. 

The most obvious one is buoyancy– when we are in the swimming pool, our bodies feel lighter. This is because the water helps to make our bodies float. Similarly, our joints in the body also experience lesser weight and compression. Physiotherapists make use of this effect for patients to perform distinctive exercise with less pain and discomfort.

The next property is very interesting– have you tried walking in the water? We walk slower in water because there is a high amount of resistance going against the body. Physiotherapists use this effect to help patients get stronger while reducing the pressure acting on their joints, allowing patients with specific conditions to progress without aggravating their pain.

The third property is called Hydrostatic pressure. When we dip our body in water, the water surrounds the body and applies pressure onto the body. Therapists use this effect to help relieve pain and reduce swelling, a simple but effective approach.

Lastly, as simple as it sounds, getting in the pool can be very relaxing. It can help alleviate stresses in our body and minds, allowing us to feel recharged after a good dip in the pool. 

3. Which types of injuries can benefit from aqua therapy rehab?

There’s a large variety of physical conditions that can benefit from aqua therapy. For example– sports injuries, neurological conditions like strokes and spinal cord injuries, even people who are overweight find it easier to perform aqua therapy. This is the case as the joints have less pressure acting on them and the water’s properties support the body’s weight.

4. What types of healing can be achieved through Aqua therapy?

An example to highlight is a patient with osteoporosis, which is a condition that weakens the bones. This elderly patient was not used to exercising due to weakness she felt. But once getting into the swimming pool, she experienced instant weight relief, allowing her to walk better. At her home she uses a 4-legged frame, but in the pool, she is able to walk independently due to the floating effects in the water. Because of this, she walks further and exercises more in the pool, improving her physical stamina and fitness. These benefits have greatly improved her physical condition. Additionally, as she was previously confined to her home for therapy, this new freedom to be in the swimming pool and do more has greatly helped her mood and spirit during sessions. 

Another type of patient that can benefit from aqua therapy are those that have muscle strains and are recovering from sports. Soaking in the pool to recharge their bodies, while performing light exercises helps the muscles recover faster and reduce swelling.

If you would like to find out more about aqua therapy, or other forms of rehabilitation that can help improve your condition, reach out to us for a tailored rehab plan.

Find the full CNA938 interview here: Health Matters – Aqua Therapy For Rehab


Last Reviewed by Jaden Lim on 16/09/2022