Patients who are recovering from a spinal injury must typically walk a fine line between restoring flexibility and strengthening muscles without aggravating their injury. Aquatic therapy (which is essentially physical therapy in a warm pool) has proven to be a highly effective tool to assist in spinal recovery. Here are a few of the benefits patients receive from aquatic therapy after a spinal injury.
The viscosity and resistance of water creates buoyancy and reduces the effects of gravity, enabling patients to move about without the typical jolts and impacts of footfalls which can otherwise aggravate a spine injury. This low-impact movement allows for the strengthening of muscles while sparing bones and joints from further damage.
Simply put, it requires more energy and force to move our bodies in water than in air. This added resistance goes a long way toward strengthening core muscles quickly, providing additional needed support to the spinal column.
Not only does the natural resistance of water make you buoyant and enable muscle strengthening — but it also helps you strengthen more muscle groups at once because the resistance exists in all directions. This allows the same movement to strengthen more muscle groups simultaneously, as opposed to working only one muscle group at a time in normal gravity conditions.
You probably already have experienced the natural soothing that occurs when you relax in a bath or hot tub — now imagine the benefits of exercising in that environment. The combination of warmth and the natural water pressure on the skin helps to soothe the tissues of the body even while you exercise so you experience less soreness as a result. Most patients come out of the water feeling refreshed and invigorated rather than fatigued.
Prescription pain medications can effectively reduce discomfort, but they come with their own set of dangers, from unwanted side effects to the threat of addiction. For many spinal patients, aquatic therapy offers a healthier, reduced-risk alternative to treatment with drugs, or with drugs alone. Your doctor may or may not prescribe prescription painkillers, but with aquatic therapy, you’re likely to need these medicines less, or not at all.
To learn more about the benefits of aquatic therapy after a spine injury, call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center at 404-256-2633, and ask to speak to our team in the Spine Wellness Center.