Stroke Recovery: How Aquatic Therapy May Help

GOLCR | Aquatic Therapy | Woman Floating

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke. Strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability and reduce the mobility of more than half of all stroke survivors over the age of 65. Immediate medical care and physical therapy are the best hope for a strong recovery. Aquatic therapy can be a valuable part of that recovery for many patients.

How Aquatic Therapy Works

Aquatic therapy is a guided form of physical rehabilitation that can help patients to recover their physical strength, balance, and mobility after a stroke. The patients perform specific exercises under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist.

All aquatic physical therapy sessions assist in meeting the needs of each patient. Treatment can include active assistance exercises to improve strength and balance, in an environment that reduces the fear of falling. Aquatic therapy can also help stroke patients with their gait coordination and endurance. The patient does not need to know how to swim.

How the Therapy Helps

The buoyancy of the water reduces forces of gravity and pressure on the joints, and lowers the risk of falls during exercise in the pool, affording stroke patients more confidence during their workouts. It can also enable otherwise non-mobile patients to stand upright and walk in the water with aid of a physical therapist.

The resistance of the water boosts the strength-building benefits of each movement without excessive effort. According to the American Stroke Association, fatigue is a problem for about 70 percent of stroke survivors. Aquatic exercise in a warm water pool can be a relaxing and rejuvenating experience that does not cause the exhaustion that patients may experience with other physical therapy methods.

Who Benefits From Therapy

Any stroke patient can benefit from aquatic therapy, even if their stroke took place years before. The patient may not recover their mobility, but the therapy can help to relax the body and relieve pain. The reduction of pressure on the joints is an added benefit for stroke survivors with other health concerns like arthritis, obesity, or diabetes.

What Patients Can Expect

Patients will have a variety of maneuvers to perform in the water. The therapist may instruct the patient to perform stretches to help loosen up the muscles for more flexibility. Patients may perform several balance challenges in the pool such as step up, step over, and step sideways, turn and take steps backwards. Many patients find their balance challenges easier to try when the fear of falling is removed. Other exercises that take place in shallow water may include squats or single leg activities.

The therapy sessions will change as the patient advances in strength, balance, and flexibility. The sessions usually last 30 minutes or more, based on the health and stamina of the patient.

Note that while aquatic therapy can be an important part of recovery, it is not the only therapy stroke survivors need. Speech therapy and occupational therapy along with other services may be necessary.

Why Professional Therapy Matters

Aquatic therapy and swimming are not the same activity. Lake Centre for Rehab offers specialized equipment for safety and extra benefit including a lift chair to help patients in and out of the pool and an underwater treadmill. The therapists design the programs to address the physical complaints of the individual patient and set up unique goals for each patient.

At Lake Centre for Rehab, our Medicare-certified programs help people to regain their strength and strive for more independence. Our therapists have experience in various forms of therapy — including aquatic therapy — that help stroke survivors, as well as many others, to overcome pain and limitations. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

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