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The History of Aquatic Therapy

img_0036 Throughout human history, water has been used in many ways to help people suffering with painful physical conditions. The principle that water has healing capabilities holds true in what we call aquatic therapy, however, it is important to note that aquatic therapy is quite different than other forms of healing that utilize water i.e hydrotherapy.

WHAT IS AQUATIC THERAPY?

Aquatic therapy is one of the seventeen specialty sections of physical therapy recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association. Aquatic therapists use standard physical therapy practices in an aquatic environment to increase a patient’s strength and range of motion, and to decrease their pain and discomfort. Those suffering from arthritis, sports related injuries, pain related to various types of surgeries, and a range of other physical afflictions can find relief through aquatic therapy. If you have ever received aquatic therapy, then you know just how helpful and life changing this form of physical therapy can be.

WHY IS AQUATIC THERAPY A VIABLE TREATMENT OPTION?

The availability of H2O in addition to several innate advantages of the substance make it an ideal healing medium. The thermodynamics, viscosity, buoyancy, density and hydrostatic pressure of water make aquatic therapy a comfortable solution for ailing bodies.

WHEN DID AQUATIC THERAPY BECOME A WIDELY ACCEPTED TREATMENT OPTION?

Aquatic physical therapy is known to have been used as a treatment for several physical deformities here in the U.S. in the early 1900’s. Dr. Charles Leroy Lowman, who at a later date published Technique of Underwater Gymnastics: A Study in Practical Application (A book which covered ways to approach aquatic therapy), began using such practices to help patients dealing with cerebral palsy in 1911. In time the practice of aquatic therapy became popular enough that in 1924 the 32nd president of the United States of America, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was stricken with polio, began using aquatic therapy.

Though in the beginning of the century patients might have viewed their physical therapists as health care providers, the Social Security organization did not see them as such until 1967 when amendments were made to the Social Security Act. Thereafter, physical therapy, became a treatment option eligible for Medicare assistance, and is now covered by most insurance companies.

HOW IS AQUATIC THERAPY CONTINUING TO CHANGE?

Aquatic therapy practices have evolved since the beginning of the treatment option over one hundred years ago and will more than likely continue to do so. Aquatic therapists that are currently in the field, as well as those acquiring a degree in an effort to become an aquatic therapist, are constantly learning and expanding upon old techniques as well as developing new ones.