What is aquatic therapy?

According to the Aquatic Physical Therapy Section of the American Physical Therapy Association, aquatic therapy or aquatic physical therapy (APT) is “the evidence-based and skilled practice of physical therapy in an aquatic environment by a physical therapist.” APT includes “treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, health, wellness, and fitness of the patient/client population in an aquatic environment with or without the use of assistive, adaptive, orthotic, protective, or supportive devices and equipment.” Interventions for people of all ages with various disabilities, disorders, or conditions are enhanced when performed within an aquatic environment. APT interventions are designed to maintain or improve function; balance, coordination, and agility; flexibility; aerobic capacity/endurance conditioning; gait; locomotion; and body mechanics and postural stabilization. Also, APT interventions used for muscle strength, power, and endurance may include manual therapy, breathing strategies, electrotherapeutic modalities, therapeutic exercises, and functional training.

There are multiple benefits of APT. These benefits include:

  • APT improves muscle relaxation and increases peripheral circulation through the use of warm water.
  • Water provides resistance for strength training.
  • Body awareness, balance, and trunk stability are stimulated by warm water.
  • Through the reduction of gravitational forces in the pool, the person is able to stand and begin gait training and strengthening exercises without causing further damage.
  • Decreased pain sensitivity is a result of the warm water and buoyancy.

If you would like to learn more about APT, check out these documents from the NIDILRR community. Please speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise regime.