There’s no doubt that rehabilitation following a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be a long and challenging process for the individual concerned. There are several types of therapy which have shown to be beneficial for SCI patients during their recovery.
A lot does depends on the extent of the injury. Individuals will generally work with doctors and a professional physiotherapist to develop a regime that works for their condition. One important rehabilitation technique that is used quite widely with spinal cord injuries is aqua therapy, as known as aquatic therapy or hydrotherapy.
Here we take a closer look at this approach, how it can be beneficial and what to consider before undertaking aquatic exercise following a spinal cord injury.
Aquatic rehabilitation basically uses the supportive property of water to undertake gentle exercises which can help to improve coordination and mobility. Also called water therapy, it is always carried out at a specialist facility or shallow swimming pool under the supervision of a qualified therapist.
Aqua therapy can help with balance and coordination, improve flexibility, boost heart health and also increase overall strength. Different techniques are used depending on the condition of the patient and what they are capable of.
For example, aqua jogging involves wearing a floatation vest and improving a person’s gait by walking in the water. The water provides enough support so that the individual is able to stay upright and mobile without falling. It is often used before moving onto more intensive exercises out of the pool.
There are huge benefits from using hydrotherapy following a spinal cord injury. The viscosity and buoyancy of the water provides an ideal environment and allows individuals to undertake physiotherapy that might not normally be possible outside of the pool.
A physiotherapist will work to find the right water therapy exercises for each patient with their condition and present capabilities taken into consideration.
Typical aqua therapy exercises include:
Hydrotherapy can be extremely useful for spinal cord injury rehabilitation, but it may not be suitable in all cases. Even though a shallow pool is used, there are safety considerations, particularly with individuals who have an SCI.
There may be issues with incontinence for example, especially with more severe spinal cord injuries. Individuals who have challenges with spasticity may also be at more risk. It’s vital that any SCI aqua therapy session is controlled and supervised by a qualified physiotherapist who is aware of any potential risks and can keep the individual safe at all times.
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