In The Pool With an Exercise Physiologist: A Comprehensive Guide to Hydrotherapy


Hydrotherapy is more than just a swim; it’s a therapeutic approach to improving pain, mobility, and health through aquatic exercise. Hydrotherapy can be extremely effective for those living with a chronic health conditions or disability. At Effect Exercise Physiology we believe that hydrotherapy can be a great way for someone to manage their health or might even be the perfect starting point for someone’s health journey.

In this blog, we’ll navigate through the unique aspects of hydrotherapy, discover its diverse benefits for various health conditions, highlight the importance of engaging initially with an Exercise Physiologist, and recognise contraindications (why someone shouldn’t do hydrotherapy).

Why is Hydrotherapy Different to Just Swimming?

Hydrotherapy goes beyond casual swimming. It involves specific exercises and movements in water in warm temperatures (a hydrotherapy pool will be 33-36 degrees), utilising our body’s own buoyancy and resistance to enhance rehabilitation. Unlike swimming laps, hydrotherapy targets joint flexibility, muscle strength, and overall well-being through specific, targeted movement.

What Health Conditions Can Benefit from Hydrotherapy?

Below, are some examples of health conditions that benefit from hydrotherapy

Chronic Back Pain: Hydrotherapy is an effective intervention for improving chronic lower back pain symptoms, including pain intensity, functional disability, and reliance on medication usage. Studies show It is particularly beneficial for people aged 60 and above who are looking for a non pharmacological way to help manage their pain. In the pool you can find many ways to move your body that on land might feel painful. It can be a particularly good starting point to start moving well again if you find lower back pain affects your day to day life.

Fibromyalgia: For those with fibromyalgia, hydrotherapy provides gentle exercise, lessening pain and stiffness. The warm water soothes tender points, enhancing comfort. This recent review from 2019 highlights the effectiveness of hydrotherapy for those with fibromyalgia

Neurological Conditions (e.g., Multiple Sclerosis): The buoyancy of water reduces our body weight due to buoyancy, making hydrotherapy beneficial and safe for individuals with neurological conditions. It enhances balance and coordination as people can perform movements with greater control in the water. Most public pools are not overheated, taking in consideration heat tolerance changes that can occur with conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis.

Osteoarthritis: Hydrotherapy offers relief for arthritis by reducing joint stress. Warm water buoyancy eases movement, promoting flexibility and decreasing pain. It is important to note however that hydrotherapy only provides short term relief and for long term improvements it is important to also engage in land based exercise (see here for more information)

Post-Surgery Rehabilitation: After surgery, hydrotherapy aids in a gradual return to physical activity. It supports gentle, controlled movements, fostering a faster recovery. Many surgeon’s now recommend early hydrotherapy to help improve joint function after a variety of spine, knee and hip surgeries.

Why It’s Important to Engage an Exercise Physiologist for Hydrotherapy

An Exercise Physiologist ensures that your hydrotherapy sessions are tailored to your specific needs and health goals. They design a personalised program, monitor your progress, and adapt exercises to maximise benefits. Their expertise in human movement and knowledge on a varirety of injuries, disabilities and health conditions enhances the effectiveness of your hydrotherapy, helping guide your journey to improved health.

Why Someone Would Not Be Suitable for Hydrotherapy and Contraindications

While hydrotherapy is generally safe, certain conditions may deem individuals unsuitable. Your Exercise Physiologist will always screen for certain health conditions or risk factors, however here is a short list of the more common reasons why people may not be appropriate to participate in hydrotherapy

Fever: Hydrotherapy increases blood circulation, potentially intensifying a fever. Individuals with an elevated body temperature should avoid hydrotherapy until recovered.

Open Wounds: Infections can arise if open wounds come into contact with pool water. Hydrotherapy is contraindicated until wounds are fully healed. This also includes Infections and/or severe skin conditions.

Incontinence: Individuals with uncontrolled incontinence may face challenges in a public hydrotherapy setting.

Cardiovascular Issues: People with severe cardiovascular conditions should consult a healthcare professional before starting hydrotherapy. An Exercise Physiologist can determine your cardiovascular health and risk for participating in hydrotherapy prior to beginning.

Fear of Water: As beneficial a hydrotherapy program may be, if being in water induces fear, anxiety or other emotions the risks outweighs the potential benefits

About Us

Effect Exercise Physiology regularly provides hydrotherapy to suitable clients at the Moss Vale Aquatic Centre. People wishing to participate will see their Exercise Physiologist for a 60 minute initial consultation so they can go through health history, goal setting and assessment prior to arranging hydrotherapy appointments. This not only ensures the safety of your participation but allows our Exercise Physiologist to create a hydrotherapy program tailored towards your needs and overall health goals. If this sounds like you or you would like to learn more about hydrotherapy in Moss Vale you can book online or give us a call today.

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