What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy (aquatic physiotherapy) provides a warm, relaxed atmosphere for treating chronic and acute conditions. The water temperature provides the optimum temperature for muscle relaxation being at thermo-neutral (32 – 35 degree C) which is a temperature that will not affect your core body temperature. It promotes dilatation of peripheral blood vessels which will improve circulation and help to reduce pain and muscle spasm.

Physiotherapists work with patients giving exercises in warm water and this is a popular treatment for patients with musculoskeletal and neurological conditions The goals of this therapy are muscle relaxation, improving joint motion and reducing pain. This therapy has been used for thousands of years.

Patient satisfaction and adherence to this form of exercise are often high. The therapeutic effects are often enhanced by the social setting of the sessions.

The Physiological Effects of Hydrotherapy

While you are immersed in water there is less force on the body from gravity and the pressure from the water on your body will also have a soothing effect for painful conditions. This helps to decrease pain, increase range of movement and increase muscle activity. The buoyancy of the water enables movement to be either assisted or resisted and allows for more fluid movements. you will feel lighter while in the water and this makes movement and exercise easier.

This is especially important if you have pain and difficulty with weight bearing activities, such as walking and moving around. The aim is to gain flexibility of joints, strengthen muscles and enhance core stability to restore or improve function. Water is denser than air which will provide a natural resistance as you move.

Therapeutic Effects 

  1. Relieve pain and muscle spasm
  2. To gain relaxation
  3. To maintain or increase the range of joint movement
  4. To re-educate paralyzed muscles
  5. To strengthen weak muscles and to develop their power and endurance
  6. To encourage walking and other functional and recreational activities.
  7. To improve circulation ( trophic condition of the skin ) 
  8. To give the patient encouragement and confidence in carrying out his exercises, thereby improving his morale.
  9. The warmth of water blocks nociception by acting on thermal receptors and mechanoreceptors, thus influencing spinal segmental mechanisms.
  10. Warm water stimulates blood flow positively, which leads to muscle relaxation
  11. the hydrostatic effect may relieve pain by reducing peripheral oedema and by dampening the sympathetic nervous system activity.

Are there any side effects?

Aquatic therapy is usually well tolerated by most people, but it may leave you tired and slightly sore for up to a day afterwards. This is nothing to worry about, but a sign that aquatic therapy is working. Some users feel better and energised immediately. However, it is very important to inform a member staff if you feel unwell at any time during your session, not to exceed the allocated time in the pool (as per the risk assessment), and to drink plenty of water for the remainder of the day, as aquatic therapy can be dehydrating.

What should I wear to my aquatic therapy session?

Many people wear bathing suits for aquatic physical therapy sessions, but any clothes that you don’t mind getting wet are okay with us. Some wear shorts and t-shirts just because they aren’t comfortable in a bathing suit… that’s okay. Any questions please call us on 01322 428590 or email us on dgn-tr.hydrotherapy@nhs.net.