The history of aquatic therapy
The beneficial effects of water, internally and externally on both the mind and body are numerous. With hydrotherapy, water cures, swimming and water aerobics, it seems that every form of aquatic therapy works magic on the body.
Where did it all begin?
Although water aerobics become popular in the 1970’s, the Godfather of fitness Jack LaLane, introduced a specific type of water exercise on TV in the 1950s. To understand the roots of aqua therapy however, we must travel back in time. As far back as the Ancient Greeks water was believed to hold healing powers, and was used to treat all manner of ailments, later the Romans began to see the benefits of bathing in hot springs to improve circulation and aid relaxation. The beautiful Roman baths in Somerset are a testament to this.
To get a better view of the timeline of aquatic therapy let’s take a look –
- 2400 BC, in Asia and Greece people immersed themselves in water as a healing and religious purposes.
- The Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates talked about the attributes of bathing in spring water to alleviate the symptoms of some illnesses.
- By 1500 BC, water was used to reduce fevers.
- 800 BC Bath, England became a hot spot for healing through bathing.
- 500 AD, not only did water as a form of therapy fall out of favour, so did bathing as a form of hygiene.
- In the 1700’s water came back into fashion, with the emergence of hydrotherapy, developed by the German doctor Sigmund Hahn.
- Today, Aqua exercise and therapy can be found in nearly every sports centre and health facility.
What is aquatic therapy?
Aquatic therapy, also known as hydrotherapy, water therapy, aquatic rehabilitation, aqua therapy or pool therapy is a physical exercise undertaken in water. It differs some from aquatic fitness in that it is considered to be a form of medicinal rehabilitation, and is required to be overseen by a trained professional.
The long list of conditions treatable by aquatic therapy include –
- Balance disorders
- Cerebral palsy
- Chronic pain
- Joint reconstruction surgery recovery
- Joint replacement surgery recovery
- Lower back pain
- Orthopedic injuries
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal cord injury
- Sprains and strains
- Traumatic Brain Injury
These conditions are generally offered as a form of therapy in hospitals, sports clinics and traditional outpatient rehabilitation centres. Some senior centres may also offer aquatic therapy services as a form of improving fitness levels, and it’s been well documented about the beneficial properties of water exercise on less mobile patients.
As Active London describes – “Aqua aerobics is an ideal activity for those wanting to improve the health of their heart and lungs and burn off some calories but without suffering any wear and tear on their bodies”.
The total benefits of water immersion therapy
The opportunity to minimise pain and discomfort via aquatic therapy is great. The natural buoyancy of water acts as a buffer and a support for the body, which can increase many aspects of ill health and mobility issues, such as –
- coordination and balance
- muscle strength and endurance
- aerobic capacity
- gait and motion
Water’s natural properties have always provided an ideal environment for soothing aching joints and with the addition of guided therapy it can do so much more. Rehabilitation for athletes struggling to return to fitness after either an injury or in some cases surgery, benefit massively from initial first stage aquatic therapy. The hydrostatic pressure supports the athlete allowing them to perform much needed strengthening exercises in water without the risk of further straining muscles or joints. The movement of wave propagation allows the body to initiate muscle flex / joint movement gently and without pressure, hastening the recovery time for athletes.
In our next post we will look at the different types of aquatic therapy and see just what the fuss is really all about.