What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy has been used to describe a variety of activities, of which most relate to therapeutic exercise activities carried out in heated pools. In recent times, health funds and traditional medicine have recognised hydrotherapy as a physiotherapy treatment carried out in water where the properties of water are utilised to achieve specific, therapeutic goals.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy has therapeutic effects on the body tissues; heating, cooling debridement, pain relief, muscle relaxation, and warm-up to assist with exercises. Water has complex thermal, mechanic, and inherent mechanical forces of buoyancy, pressure, cohesion, and viscosity that play a role in the effects produced on the body from hydrotherapy. The supportive, assistive and resistive qualities of the water make it possible for patients to begin range of motion, strength, and endurance exercise.

Which types of patients will benefit from Hydrotherapy?

  • Post injury; to assist in regaining strength and mobility without overstressing the injury site
  • Recovery after sport or physical activity
  • Arthritic patients
  • Post operation/surgery patients i.e. total knee/hip replacement
  • Patients with difficulty weight-bearing due to injury, weakness or pain
  • Patients with difficulty lifting their upper/lower limbs against gravity
  • Patients with neurological deficits i.e. multiple sclerosis

How is Hydrotherapy carried out?

Following assessment by physiotherapist, the physiotherapist may prescribe/develop an individualized program suitable for the patient. The program should be reviewed at appropriate intervals by the treating physiotherapist and it may be modified and/or progressed as per the patient’s condition and rate of their progress. In some situations, referral to other aquatic professionals will be appropriate, e.g. exercise physiologist, aquatic fitness instructor or swimming teacher/coach. Appropriate documentation detailing the reasons for clinical decisions is recommended.

Limitations of Hydrotherapy

  • Incontinence
  • Open wound
  • Skin irritation i.e. tinea
  • Patients who require excessive help getting in and out of the water, although some hydrotherapy pools have access hoist which allows a person with any disability to have access to both above and below ground pools
  • Patients with aquaphobia

Hydrotherapy is currently offered through our Physiotherapy department at our Kidman Park and Norwood practices. Please contact your closest clinic for more information.

Pro Physio SA, Dong Lee, Physiotherapist

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