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Hydrotherapy: for body and mind.

The benefits of exercising in water have long been acknowledged, and for professionals supporting catastrophically injured people, access to hydrotherapy is a critical part of rehabilitation care. In this guest article, we speak with Susan Filson, a physiotherapist of 40 years’ experience who provides physiotherapy consultancy services and expert witness services in personal injury and clinical negligence claims. She explains why hydrotherapy is so important for both body and mind. 

Aquatic therapy, more commonly referred to as hydrotherapy, is a therapy programme utilising the properties of water specifically designed by a suitably qualified physiotherapist for an individual to maximise their level of function whether physical, physiological or psychological. 

It’s the unique properties of water, such as buoyancy, resistance and hydrostatic pressure than makes it such an effective form of rehabilitation treatment” explains Susan. “These unique properties allow for freedom of movement for disabled clients which they cannot achieve on dry land, especially if they are a wheelchair user, or rely on carers and aids for movement. Once in the water, clients can move more freely, enabling them to have greater independence and control over their body.”

Hydrotherapy and improvements to bodily functions 

Aquatic therapy has been shown to improve a range of bodily functions, including:

  • spasticity (muscle tone)
  • respiratory function
  • trunkal stability in water
  • digestive tract mobility due to trunkal and abdominal movements
  • cardiovascular, flexibility, muscle strength and endurance
  • mental and emotional fitness 

“For many clients, being immersed in water allows for a full body sensation as they experience the swishing of water against their skin which can have a hugely calming and relaxing effect on clients. They hydrostatic pressure exerted on the body creates a feeling of tightness which leaves our body light and refreshed. This same pressure not only improves circulation, but it provides a massaging effect which reduces muscle tension and leaves clients feeling less stressed.” 

What makes a good hydrotherapy pool? 

Susan has been a physiotherapist for 40 years and has witnessed the growth in aquatic therapy as a form of both short and long-term rehabilitation. “Finding convenient and suitable facilities for clients to undertake their aquatic therapy can be very difficult. Whilst pool operators may claim that their facilities are disabled friendly, this is often not the case. I’m lucky enough to often work with clients who have their own pools at home, paid for as part of their compensation claim, which does make all the difference in terms of ease of accessibility and the frequency at which they can undergo this therapy.” 

For clients who have their own pools built, here are Susan’s top tips for home hydrotherapy pools: 

  • suitable changing area – large enough to accommodate the client, their wheelchair and possibly two carers. There needs to be a suitable plinth on which to change and a hoist to facilitate the transfer from wheelchair to plinth safely.
  • Level access shower and toilet facilities.
  • Suitable shower chair or overhead track hoist to transfer the client from the changing room to the poolside.
  • Level access to the poolside.
  • The air temperature in both the changing area and the pool needs to be warm and that water should be maintained at around blood temperature level or just below. If this is not the case, then a client’s core temperature can drop due to abnormal thermo-regulation causing a physiological response to these temperature differences.
  • Moving floor in the pool. 

If you would like to contact Susan about her physiotherapy consultancy or expert witness work, she can be contacted on: susan.filson@sjfphysio.co.uk

 

*Hydrotherapy Pool picture is from a current 'in progress' project, the property is going to be adapted and extended to make it fully accessible for the client.

 

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