What is Aquatic Physical Therapy?

Aquatic Physical Therapy is the scientific practice of physical therapy in an aquatic environment by physical therapists and physical therapists assistants. Aquatic Physical Therapy includes, but is not limited to treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, health, wellness, and fitness of patient/client populations in an aquatic environment.  The unique properties of the aquatic environment enhances treatments for patients/clients across the age span with musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular/pulmonary, and integumentary (skin) disease, disorders, or conditions.

Southern California Sports Rehabilitation offers Aquatic Therapy as an excellent low impact activity for individuals of all abilities from recent post- op patients to professional athletes.

Aquatic therapy activities consist of cardiovascular endurance and conditioning and strengthening exercises. Often traditional physical therapy is delayed because patients cannot tolerate weight- bearing activities.

Aquatic Therapy allows the therapist to initiate rehab at an earlier stage, resulting in the patient returning to his/her activities of daily living in the shortest time period possible.

What is The Difference Between "Aquatic Physical Therapy" and Aquatic Exercise"?

  • The clinical reasoning and decision making skills of a PT/PTA.
  • The patient has impairments and/or disabilities which can be minimized or eliminated with aquatic therapy
  • The patient has the potential for reaching new functional goals/outcomes to improved quality of life and ease the burden of care.

What Are The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy?

Physical benefits of Aquatic Physical Therapy:

  • Earlier movement of limbs
  • Improved functional mobility
  • Reduction of pain
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Improved flexibility or range of motion
  • Improved cardiovascular endurance
  • Pressure relief and improved circulation
  • Improved balance and coordination
  • Improved gait (walking pattern)
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Improved muscle strength, power, and endurance
  • Decreased muscle spasms

Psychological benefits of Aquatic Physical Therapy:

  • Improved body image and self-esteem
  • Enhanced mood
  • Increased patience
  • Stress and tension release
  • Renewed energy
  • Promotes a positive attitude

How Does Aquatic Therapy Work?

  • Buoyancy

    The buoyant effect of water helps the patient by giving additional assistance and support. A patient in waist deep, chest deep, and neck deep water weighs 50%, 30%, and 10% of their actual body weight. The water helps support the patient's body weight which allows the patient to perform exercises with less stress on weight-bearing joints, bones, i.e., spine, and muscles. This allows the patient to exercise through a greater range of motion.

  • Hydrostatic Pressure

    The hydrostatic effect of water helps blood from the lower extremities circulate to the heart. This often results in reduced swelling in the ankles and feet, reduced pain, and greater range of motion while exercising.

  • Resistance

    The resistance of the water is exerted in every direction, unlike gravity which provides direction in only one direction. This multi- directional resistance promotes muscle balance and strengthening.

Who Can Benefit From Aquatic Therapy?

Virtually all injuries and rheumatic conditions can be treated with Aquatic Therapy.

Common Diagnoses include the following:

  • Sports and work-related injuries requiring rapid rehabilitation
  • Lower extremity fractures with internal fixation allowing for early ROM with minimal weight bearing
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Repetitive Strain/Stress Disorders
  • Lumbar Strain
  • Sciatica
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Post- op Lumbar Surgeries
  • Knee and Hip Replacement Surgeries
  • Ankle Reconstruction Surgery
  • Stroke
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Cardiac Disorders

What Situations Would Be Contraindicated For Aquatic Therapy?

  • Fever
  • Skin Rashes
  • Open Wounds
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Uncontrolled Seizures
  • Bladder or Bowel Incontinence


1809 E. Dyer Rd. #313
Santa Ana CA 92705

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1809 E. Dyer Rd. #313
Santa Ana CA 92705