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Hydrotherapy - common myths and misconceptions

Published: 30 October 2017 - Injury Treatment and Prevention, Pain Management

We challenge some of the common myths and misconceptions surrounding hydrotherapy and the effects it can have on our fitness and rehabilitation. We will also share insight into some of the benefits of exercising in the water.

Myth: It is only for the elderly population

A common belief is that hydrotherapy is purely for the elderly, where the duration of a class is spent listening to an instructor singing and dancing whilst kicking their arms and legs on the side of the pool.

Fact: Hydrotherapy is much more than this! It's quite a common exercise modality for those people:

  • Recovering from surgery (cardiovascular, neurological, musculo-skeletal, etc.)
  • Athletes with sporting injuries (Eg. Sprained ankle, muscle strains, upper limb injuries etc.)  
  • Inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis and bursitis
  • Having undergone joint replacement surgery
  • With chronic pain or arthritis pain who are aiming to improve fitness and strength in an alternative and supportive environment
  • Pre-(re)habilitation whilst awaiting surgery

Myth: Exercise in the water won’t result in any strength benefits

Fact: Hydrotherapy exercise rehab allows you to:

  • Have longer sessions with less soreness compared with land-based exercise due to reduced loads on joints
  • Increase the intensity/difficulty of exercise with reduced joint compression as we may have between 10-25 per cent bodyweight on our lower limbs in deep water
  • Achieve muscle strength changes with reduced joint stress compared with gym or land-based exercise
  • Complete a graduated progression from supervised to independent hydrotherapy exercises as a stepping stone to home or gym-based rehabilitation

In summary, hydrotherapy allows you to gain similar muscular benefits to land-based exercise without the aches and pains both during and after sessions!

Myth: I can’t swim, so I won't be able to exercise in the pool  

Fact: Hydrotherapy is accessible to non-swimmers provided they are not fearful of water or overwhelmed with emotions when in water  

Your physio will help you to complete in-pool sessions starting with one-on-one sessions and eventually progress to small group sessions of 5-8 people if suitable.

You do not need to be able to swim as the classes are completed whilst you stand on the bottom of the pool and close to the pool edge.

Summary

Hydrotherapy is often a combination of cardiovascular water fitness exercises (such as walking, pool cycling, boxing, etc.) as well as strength and conditioning, balance, proprioception, and range of motion/stretching exercises based on the individual client’s needs (established during assessment along with client/therapist goals, likes/dislikes, safety for pool exercise and more).

The aim is to build confidence and autonomy so that, if the client and therapist are both happy, an individualised home program can be established to be performed outside of class times.