HydrotherapyHydrotherapy for Chronic Conditions

Today hydrotherapy is used to treat and manage many chronic conditions and disease.  Hydrotherapy is one of the oldest forms of medical treatment and involves the use of heated water to soothe pains and treat diseases.  The use of thermal baths can be traced back to Hippocrates who prescribed bathing in spring water for sickness.  It has long been accepted that thermal spring water can improve health by increasing circulation.

Being able to swim is not a prerequisite for performing a hydrotherapy exercise program.  A hydrotherapy program can be used alone or as a stepping stone to a land based or gym program.


What are the therapeutic benefits of Hydrotherapy?

  • Muscular relaxation and decreased muscle spasm.
  • Decreased pain due to warmth and support.
  • Gravity is countered by buoyancy.
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance due to the greater resistance in water.
  • Improvement in swelling, due to hydrostatic pressure.
  • Enhanced balance and stabilisation.
  • Improved enjoyment and confidence to move better.

How Does It Work

Here are just some of the changes that occur in our bodies when performing a hydrotherapy program

  • Cardiovascular – improved blood flow, decrease in heart rate;
  • Renal – increased central blood volume, sodium, calcium and potassium excretion increases;
  • Respiratory – increased hydrostatic pressure in rib cage, increased airway resistance, greater use of primary breathing muscles, increased work of breathing;
  • Thermal regulation – mechanism of losing heat ineffective because of submersion in hot water;
  • Sensory – decreased sensitivity of nerve ending, decreases muscle spasm, decreases muscle tone.

How Much Difference Does the Water Make?

You might not think half submerging your body in water will make that much difference.  Below is a guide to the percentage weight bearing at different body landmarks.  So what does this mean? If an 80kg person is standing in waist deep water their body submerged in the water experiences 50% less weight.  For chronic back pain, this can provide a huge relief from the feeling of compression in their lumbar spine.  If you have chronic back pain, when is the last time you were able to experience 15-10 minutes of pain relief without taking prescribed medication?

Landmark % Weight Bearing
Knees 80
Waist 50
Chest 25
Neck 10


What conditions can Hydrotherapy benefit?

Some of the many conditions that can benefit from an individualised hydrotherapy program include:

  • Back pain/sciatica/ lumbar instability
  • Whiplash & other neck pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Tendinopathy
  • Balance/coordination problems
  • Shoulder and arm pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis & Fibromyalgia
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Back and pelvic pain during pregnancy
  • Work and accident related injuries
  • Rehabilitation after bone fractures, joint replacement or tendon repair
  • Pre-operative strengthening for joint replacement
  • Post-operative rehabilitation for joint replacement, fractures or tendon repair

As you can see performing a water based program can have a positive impact on a number of health issues.  A number of my clients enjoy their water based programs to assist in the management of their chronic back conditions.  The water is a very forgiving environment which can allow you to do a surprising amount more exercise than on land.  Even if you are a bad day with pain, it can be great to come along and relax in the water for some pain relief.

There are a number of hydrotherapy pools easily accessible on the Gold Coast.  Just like beginning any exercise program, consult you doctor to ensure your own safety.  If you are looking to begin a hydrotherapy program to improve your health and well-being ensure you get the right advice from an exercise professional.