Is aquatic therapy right for me?

Is aquatic therapy right for me?

Most of us associate the pool with summer, but you could be missing many of the benefits that exercise in water offers, according to the experts. The fall and winter is the perfect time to receive treatment in the heated pool at Allied Services and Heinz Rehab. We sat down with Allied Services Physical Therapist, Cheryl Kokinda, to learn more about aquatic therapy and answer some common questions.

Cheryl, you’re a licensed physical therapist at Heinz Rehab Center specializing in Aquatic Therapy. Tell us a little more about what you do.

As a physical therapist, my expertise is in evaluating patients and then designing and instructing patients in a series of exercises and activities tailored to that individual’s needs, limitations and goals.

Aquatic therapy, or pool therapy, is an extension of this clinical practice. It consists of an exercise program or series of specifically designed activities to help improve or restore mobility or function following an injury, illness or disability.

Are there particular benefits to aquatic therapy that you won’t find with another type of rehabilitation program?

Aquatic therapy takes place in a heated therapeutic pool and is an ideal method to relieve pain and improve function because it uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing. The pool is heated to 92 degrees and the air temperature is approximately 94 degrees. The warm water helps to increase circulation, respiratory rate, muscle metabolism, strength, flexibility and ease of movement while reducing pain through decreased weight-bearing and reduced joint stress.

I don’t think the benefits can be overlooked; the buoyancy of water supports up to 90% of body weight and the hydrostatic pressure of the water surrounding the body significantly reduces the force of stress placed on the joints, making it easier and less painful to perform exercises. The warmth of the super-heated water relaxes muscles and vasodilates or opens vessels, increasing blood flow to injured areas and allowing for increased range of motion.

Aquatic TherapyIs aquatic therapy just for people with arthritis and joint pain?

While we do offer a specific program for people with arthritis that is very popular, aquatic therapy can be beneficial for people with many orthopedic conditions or any painful condition that makes it hard to walk, stand and perform exercises on land.

Aquatic therapy can be particularly rewarding for people who are unable to exercise on land, for example, those with head trauma or a spinal cord injury. In addition, people with balance deficits may experience less fear of falling while walking and exercising in the pool. At Allied Services, we work with both children and adults. Some common diagnoses that utilize aquatic therapy may benefit include:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Post joint replacement or orthopedic surgeries
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic pain conditions that have limited function
  • Any orthopedic condition with pain or limited function
  • Stroke
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Head Injury
  • Neck, shoulder and arm pain

Do I need to be a strong swimmer?

This is a common question and one I’m happy to reassure potential patients about. Actually you don’t have to know how to swim at all to benefit from aquatic therapy. At Allied Services, therapists design exercise programs around the needs of individual patients. We utilize aquatic equipment, whether it is floatation buoys or waist belts along with assistance from the therapist to make for a very comfortable, and safe environment. Most of the time you may not even get you hair wet! You’ll be working under the close supervision of a Physical Therapist or Physical Therapist Assistant at all times to ensure your safety and comfort.

About the author: Cheryl Kokinda, PT, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with her Bachelor's Degree in Physical Therapy in 1985 and Misericordia University with a Master's Degree in Organizational Management in 1999. Cheryl is a licensed physical therapist practicing for 34 years and is currently specializing in Aquatic Physical Therapy at Heinz Rehab Center in Wilkes-Barre. She is certified in adult NDT, PWR! treatment for Parkinson's Disease, and is a Credentialed Physical Therapy Clinical Instructor.

About aquatic therapy: Patients need a prescription from their doctor in order to enroll in the Aquatic Therapy program at Allied Services Rehab and Heinz Rehab. Insurance coverage for this program is provided by most health insurance policies. Click here for more details.

Start your Referral: contact Heinz Rehab at 570-826-3900 or Allied Services Rehab at 570-348-1360.