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Mobile Equipment and Aquatic Therapy: Going Hand in Hand with Getting You On Your Feet

Aquatic therapy has been used by physical therapists for years, and for good reason. The unique properties of water allow for the reduction of body weight and easier movement, laying the scene for exercise opportunities that may not be achievable on land for someone who has limited range of motion. The heated 90 degree water helps the body stay warm and comfortable and encourages continued use.

However, aquatic therapy doesn’t usually mean just swimming around. There are various pieces of equipment that can be used to assist in exercise and treatment. Our aquatic therapy program is no different - we have various pieces of equipment that we use in our pool to encourage safe, effective functional and muscle improvement. Here’s a quick preview of some of our favorites:

The Treadmill:

Underwater treadmills are an excellent device used for increasing stamina. The buoyancy of the water around the user allows the body to work muscles and enjoy free range of motion without all of the physical stress of land-based exercise. Users can reap some additional benefits, including:

  • Increased lower body and lower back strength.

  • Increased gait control and balance.

  • Improvements to core strength, balance, flexibility, and lung capacity.

Brachiation Ladder:

Essentially, a brachiation ladder is like a set of monkey bars. Brachiation ladders help children learn hand-eye coordination by training the brain to distinguish movement direction (right and left) and command the muscles to move accordingly. This set of benefits is especially beneficial to children with developmental delay. Using a brachiation ladder in the water helps with cushioning falls and strengthening muscle, as well as providing some endurance training as a bonus! Other benefits might include the following:

  • Increase of upper body strength.

  • Strengthened gait control, endurance, and flexibility.

Elliptical Machine:

Ah, the good old elliptical. Ellipticals provide a whole slew of benefits to the user, including endurance training, upper and lower body strength improvement, and balance training, to name a few. Add the buoyancy of the water, and you’ve got a stress free exercise realm that will get you moving in no time. Here are some more benefits you can expect from using an underwater elliptical:

  • Improvements to upper and lower body strength, coordination, gait control, and balance

  • Strength building (especially back and core strength)

  • Improvements to endurance and flexibility

The Stepper:

Think of a stepper as a kind of elliptical that focuses primarily on up and down motions instead of rolling motions. The stepper gives most of the benefits of stair exercise - endurance and strengthening of lower body muscles. The utilization of the water helps protect healing knees, ankles, and hips by lessening the strain on them that normal steps would impose. The stepper provides some other benefits:

  • Strengthens the lower body and core.

  • Improves gait control, endurance, and flexibility.

It’s important to note that doing these activities in the water can prove to be safer than doing them on land, especially for those that are undergoing physical therapy. As stated above, water makes the body lighter and reduces strain on muscles, while simultaneously increasing range of motion and flexibility. If you, as a patient, feel comfortable in the water, aquatic therapy might be the right step for your recovery.


Author: Raeann Calcutta

Raeann Calcutta is a social media intern and blogger for the ONEIL Center for Research Communication. She has her associate's degree in Communications from Sinclair Community College and currently studies Communication and Digital Media studies at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

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