Hydrotherapy the use of water and water-induced resistance to improve physical functioning is accepted by the medical community as a method to rehabilitate, or re-educate, the human body. For people with Cerebral Palsy, water can be a healing force. All activities the service user engages takes place in a pool (heated or non-heated).
More than 50 percent of body weight is water. Gravity and body weight impacts the way the body moves. Hydrotherapy presents a near complete reversal of these. Water reduces a human’s body weight by 90 percent, allowing clients to ambulate freely in a way that doesn’t place undue stress on the musculoskeletal system from forces such as gravity and body weight.
Hydrotherapy pool is one of the best environments for service user with Cerebral Palsy to improve physical functioning, especially if the patients are not ambulatory. What sets hydrotherapy apart from traditional physical therapy is that the water – which in and of itself is known for restorative and detoxifying properties – provides buoyancy that makes aerobic and anaerobic exercises easy to perform effectively, and safely. Additionally, if the water is warm, it has a massage effect on muscles, joints and ligaments that often times are over-used and in pain, improve physical function, improve psychological outlook, enhance self-confidence and improves independence and quality of life.
Although traditional physiotherapy can be immensely effective in teaching people with Cerebral Palsy how to move, water has the added benefit of hydrating, oxygenating and revitalizing the body’s musculoskeletal system. Gravitational pull is released, and weightlessness qualities are achieved. Range of movement increases and repetition, stretching and balancing is more sustainable.
Additionally, the viscosity of the water provides an excellent source of resistance, which can be incorporated into hydrotherapy program. For instance, walking in water provides more than 10 times more resistance than walking on land, which means hydrotherapy patients receives the benefit of deep, intense exercises while in a soothing and comforting environment.
The heart pumps more rigorously when the body is submerged. Hydrostatic pressure – or the pressure in water at rest due to the weight of the water above that point – benefits patients by decreasing swelling, reducing blood pressure and improving joint position. This in turn improves a patient’s proprioception, or body awareness.
Hydrotherapy can also improve a patient’s self-esteem by providing a sense of accomplishment and help them with their physical and mental wellbeing.