Improving Patient Confidence and Range of Motion with Underwater Treadmill Therapy

Posted on 
September 20, 2022

In water, many of her patients perform activities and exercises that they cannot do on land, Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics physical therapy assistant Andrea Glass finds. For example, those with back pain, joint pain or stress fractures, for whom weight-bearing exercise is painful, do wonderfully well when underwater. Thanks to the buoyancy and warmth of the water, even many of those entering the building with a cane, crutches or a walker, move freely in the pool with no need for their assistive devices.

Underwater treadmill therapy has proven particularly helpful for patients who:

  • are dealing with arthritis-related joint pain
  • have suffered stress fractures and have been given weight-bearing precautions
  • are, post-op, having difficulty regaining range of motion due to pain
  • are having balance and confidence deficits, not quite trusting a lower extremity
  • are athletes recovering from an injury who need interval training against resistance

Andrea knows, because, following surgeries to repair the severe injuries she suffered as a college athlete, it was physical therapists and their assistants who helped her return to basketball, inspiring her to pursue a career helping others get back to a pain-free, active lifestyle.

The water in the therapeutic pool is maintained at 97 to 100 degrees, Glass explains, promoting both buoyancy and muscle relaxation, reducing the stress on either painful, injured or repaired joints and muscles. At the same time, recovering athletes report it's just as hard, if not harder, running against the resistance of the water, with some reporting an even better workout for their muscles than land running.

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