Benefits of Hydrotherapy for Developmental Delays

Developmental delays (DD) are common in childhood. DD may be mild, moderate, or severe and could be due to specific birth trauma, neurodevelopmental/neuromuscular causes, or due to unknown cause. The term ‘developmental delay’ or ‘global development delay’ is used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age. This might include learning to roll, sit, crawl, to walk or talk and high level movement skills.

What is important is how your baby reaches each stage as opposed to necessarily just reaching the stage. Being placed in sitting and standing without being able to get into and out of these positions or have floor mobility is always a concern. Most of the time babies do catch up, but if you have any concerns we are here to give help and advice on how to move your baby onto the next stage of their development. For children with mild developmental delays, in the absence of any red flags for development and no abnormal findings on clinical examination, advice on appropriate stimulation activities can be provided and a review conducted when and if the physiotherapist feels appropriate.

As well as clinic based physiotherapy, hydrotherapy also has an amazing benefit when it comes to developmental delays. One of the most important treatments for DD is early intervention. Hydrotherapy can be an excellent way to work on movement patterns using the properties of water. The main treatment is aimed at improving core strength, rotational movements and extensor strength. Combined with the fun play aspects, hydrotherapy can be a great means to ‘stealthy’ and effective therapy.

Hydrotherapy involves exercising in a warm pool (typically 34 degrees C). The warm water helps to reduce muscle tightness. Relaxed muscles allow individuals to move with greater mobility. The warm water and its properties also increase joint and muscle strength and flexibility.

Water buoyancy helps to support body and enables movement, as the effects of gravity are reduced. This helps facilitate whole body movements much more in water than on land, and so it further helps to improve not just strength but also the control of movement.

Hydrotherapy is the best way to engage a child into goal focused movements. It could be the way to exercise in a calming and relaxing environment. Our physiotherapist will tailor a hydrotherapy or land based programme to improve strength, balance and coordination in children with developmental delays to meet their individual needs and maximise benefits.