Swim instructor help child stand in the water

Aquatic Therapy

Medical Reviewer: Courtney Rusomaroff, PT, DPT
Last Updated: April 9, 2024

What is aquatic therapy?

Aquatic therapy is a form of physical therapy that takes place in water. This may be in a large pool or in an individual sized AquaCiser.

What are the benefits of aquatic therapy?

Aquatic therapy has many great benefits. It decreases stress on the joints and muscles by unweighting the body, allowing for improved tolerance to movement and exercise. The water can act to assist or resist movement, making it more comfortable to perform exercises that are not well tolerated on land.

Aquatic therapy has psychological benefits as well. It can contribute to improve confidence in activities such as walking, balance and exercise. Participating in aquatic therapy can also promote relaxation and reduce fear of falling.

Aquatic therapy has been shown to improve circulation, relive pain and muscle spasms, and provide a safe environment for trialing new exercises.

What are the goals of aquatic therapy?

One of the goals of aquatic therapy is to see physical improvements that carry over to land-based activities. Patients often gain strength, range of motion, balance and flexibility through participation in aquatic therapy. Patients may also notice improved trunk control, increased endurance, decreased spasticity and reduced muscle tightness.

In addition to the physical benefits, patients experience improved confidence, increased relaxation and reduced pain through the use of aquatic therapy.

What conditions can be helped by water therapy?

What safety measures are in place?

There are always safety measures in place to ensure a safe experience in aquatic therapy. There are lifeguards present at all times while patients are in the therapy pools.

The treating clinician will be present to monitor patient’s response to exercise in the water. Floatation devices can be provided to patients if they have difficulty with swimming. Many locations have automated chairs to assist patients into the water, ensuring a safe transfer into and out of the pool.

Who should not participate in aqua therapy?

Patients with cognitive impairments that may interfere with their safety in the water are not appropriate for aquatic therapy. Patients may not participate in aquatic therapy if they have open wounds that are not appropriately covered.

We also suggest that patients with infections, incontinence, epilepsy, and/or seizures avoid participating in aquatic therapy unless cleared by a medical professional. Patients who may have difficulty regulating temperature should consider the effects of the water temperature before participating in aquatic therapy.

Additionally, patients who may have an extreme fear of water may not be appropriate for aquatic therapy.

What techniques are used?

Your therapist will provide you with the most appropriate techniques and interventions for your individual goals. Patients may participate in progressive weight bearing, desensitization techniques, graded exposure, aerobic activity, strength training, balance, deep water traction and other methods of treatment.

What types of equipment are used?

The equipment used in aquatic therapy may vary between locations. Some of the equipment that may include kickboards, pool noodles, ankle weights, wrist weights, water dumbbells, water steps, floatation devices, hand paddles, and therabands.

Who performs aqua therapy?

A licensed physical therapist and physical therapist assistant have the appropriate credentials to treat patients in aquatic therapy.

How to prepare for your appointment

We suggest contacting the clinic that you will be participating in aquatic therapy for specific information that may be unique to that clinic.

Generally, patients can expect to bring (or wear) a swimsuit to therapy. We suggest wearing something comfortable.

Please prepare to bring a towel and a dry change of clothes to aquatic therapy. Patients may choose to bring water shoes, a water bottle, cover-ups, t-shirts, and/or shower products (shampoo, comb, soap) if locker rooms/shower rooms are available at their clinic location.

How to find aqua therapy services

Aquatic therapy is typically provided in an outpatient setting. Brooks aquatic therapy is offered at various locations around Jacksonville, Florida. The locations that provide aquatic physical therapy include:

To find the location nearest you, please visit our Locations page.

Medical Reviewer

Courtney Rusomaroff, PT, DPT

Outpatient Orthopedic Physical Therapist
Courtney graduated from the University of St. Augustine with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She particularly enjoys treating patients with chronic pain and other orthopedic conditions. Through her career, Courtney has found great benefits in utilizing aquatic therapy to help patients restore strength, flexibility and function in order to get people back to enjoying life!
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