Hydrotherapy for Spinal Cord Injury

The clinical benefits in spinal cord injury vary depending on the level of the lesion and whether a head injury occurred at the time of injury. Some of the benefits are:

  • Promotes balance in sitting and standing (reduced orthostasis, drop in blood pressure) with reduced risk of falling, using the turbulent, rotational and metacentric effects of water, and the density of water allowing more time to respond and react in different positions.
  • Increasing cardiovascular fitness as lower initial working capacity and effort required to exercise in water, and the positive physiological effects on the heart and lungs when immersed upright in heated water.
  • Work on respiratory function and breath control using Aquaepps® and Halliwick techniques, alongside trunk control and thoracic mobility.
  • Increasing functional activities using buoyancy, rotational effects and turbulent drag with specific PNF and Aquaepps® techniques.
  • Gait re-education in a reduced weightbearing environment.
  • Pain relief using Watsu®, mobilising, Aquastretch and Aquaepps® techniques, and due to the physiological effects of immersions in heated water inducing muscle relaxation, reducing spasms and releasing endorphins.
  • Increased range of movement and reduced spasticity due to the effects of heated immersion (suppresses sympathetic nervous system) and by using Aquaepps® tone influencing techniques.
  • Freedom of movement as an unencumbered environment.
  • Sensory stimulation and increased proprioception (awareness of where joints are in space) due to hydrostatic pressure of water against body and turbulent drag of water moving around body.
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance using modified PNF, the properties of water reducing the strain through vulnerable joints and soft tissues and Aquaepps® techniques.
  • You might be able to learn to swim.

There is a well-established link between exercise and psychological wellbeing. Spinal cord injured children and adults who are able to achieve physical improvement in the pool often feel better in themselves, more confident with improved self-esteem and overall progress in rehabilitation. (Hutchinson 2009)

If you have a tracheostomy we can accommodate you in the pool as long as you have your usual support team with you, were you to require suction or a tracheostomy change. If you have a ventilator, we would need to speak to your team about whether or not we needed to increase your tubing and dead space, and whether your ventilator settings would need changing or not whilst in the pool. Some people prefer to use an ambu bag rather than their ventilator in the pool but this must be agreed first by your team.

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