Benefits of Aquatic Therapy After Joint Replacement
Reduced risk of falls: Exercising in an aquatic environment reduces the risks of falls and injuries that can cause major setbacks during post-op rehabilitation. In addition to improving overall recovery outcomes, it also allows the patient to do the exercises and balance training they would be reluctant to do on land for fear of injury.
Decreased joint inflammation during recovery: Low resistance of water along with hydro-static pressure promotes circulation, reduces inflammation, decreases swelling and pain, and increases tolerance to the exercises. Less inflammation increases the mobility of the joint, improving blood flow and reducing scar tissue.
Less joint stress: Water buoyancy makes aquatics an ideal environment for joint replacement rehabilitation as it helps in unloading the joints by reducing the stress and pressure on affected joints. Underwater, the body weighs only 10% of its weight in neck level water, 25% in chest level water, and 50% in waist level water. This allows for early and effective weight bearing exercises like staircase climbing and walking on uneven surfaces with easy progression without disrupting the joint anatomy.
Increased strength and range of motion: The benefits of less pain and greater flexibility allows for easier buildup of strength and range of motion, thereby resulting in substantially faster recovery from joint replacement surgery. The natural viscosity of water adds resistance to all the movements creating muscle balance. The resistance can be safely altered by adding flotation and drag devices.
Fewer side effects: Along with improving strength, flexibility, and joint condition, Aquatic therapy also helps in improving balance and cardiovascular function. This, in turn, leads to a decreased risk of common side effects such as arthritis, inflammation, strains, and improves overall health of the patient.
Postural corrections: Aquatic rehab makes it easier for clinicians to adjust postural corrections and joint alignment during exercise. Because aquatics can strengthen the back and spine, it also makes it easier to correct long-term posture, gait and joint positioning problems — this reduces the risk of further injury and promotes a faster recovery.
When can you start: Aquatic therapy can be started on day 1 post operation. Waterproof dressings can be used to cover the surgical wound. Increased tolerance to the movements and reduced pain allows for early stretching exercises and early gait training.