For years aqua-therapists have seen how rehabbing in the water is one of the best ways to achieve full function, regardless of the injury. Now, advanced aquatic therapy pools, once the exclusive domain of pro and college sports teams, are coming to senior centers.

The weight of the world can feel heavy on Kay Schweinfurth who has lived with Parkinson's for 23 years.  But she is absolutely buoyant in a therapy pool and on an underwater treadmill.

Keith McCrate, Community Director of Rehabilitation at Presbyterian Village North in Dallas, Texas told Ivanhoe, "Kay is able to actually do a pretty aggressive workout of muscle strengthening, balance training, and endurance training in this nice environment."

Kay told Ivanhoe, "I don't have any kind of aches and pains after I get out, no matter how long I exercise."

In the 90-degree pool, 82-year-old Lois McCulloch is recovering from her fractured pelvis in about half the time it would take on land.

"I can't explain it, but I do know I'm pain free when I'm in the water" Lois told Ivanhoe.

Research shows that aquatic-therapy decreases gravitational pull and increases flexibility, increases muscle strength, decreases pain, swelling, and spasticity, and improves balance.

Alberto Lin, M.D., FAAPMR, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist at Presbyterian Village North in Dallas, Texas told Ivanhoe, "It's not just extending the life span, but you're bringing more quality to it. I'm always thinking about how this patient will re-integrate back into the community."

It's a way to improve health and have fun at the same time. More facilities are incorporating therapy pools, and that means more jobs for certified aquatic therapists, so there's a growing field in the job market.


BACKGROUND: Stroke, Parkinson's disease, and broken bones can all leave someone with a physical disability and a decreased sense of independence.  Strokes, which are caused by interrupted blood flow in the brain, can leave people paralyzed, weak, or in pain. Those with Parkinson's disease are often frustrated by uncontrollable tremors and slower movements. When a senior citizen fractures or breaks a hip bone, the traumatic event often leaves them with a limp and limited mobility. Elderly individuals who have a hip fracture are 5 to 20 percent more likely to die in the first year following the injury than others in their age group. All of these can also lead to depression. Physical therapy, surgery, and pain-relieving medication may help in some cases.  


PHYSICAL THERAPY: Physical therapy is a health treatment that involves stretching and exercise to relieve pain and prevent the disease from spreading. Physical therapy can prevent falls by boosting the patient's sense of balance. Some of the conditions that physical therapy can help treat are:

·     Arthritis

·     Osteoporosis

·     Parkinson's disease

·     Stroke

·     Alzheimer's Disease

·     Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


THINKING OUT OF THE BOX: Like physical therapy, aqua therapy involves exercise to restore movement and alleviate pain. The underwater movements are less stressful on the joints and the buoyancy of the water makes movements easier. Facilities like the Presbyterian Village North Aquatics and Rehabilitation Therapy Center have specialized underwater equipment, like underwater treadmills. In other types of physical therapy, older patients can be limited by their fear of falling. In aqua therapy, the patients can't really fall. The warmth of the water can also relax muscles and increase blood flow to injured areas. 


Keith McCrate