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Aquatic Therapy and Parkinson's Disease (research review)​

December  2017

*Study demonstrates that people with Parkinson's Disease (PD) had significantly improved postural stability after aquatic physical therapy when compared to land-based therapy.

  • Participants: 11 patients with PD
  • Treatment: land-based PT or aquatic PT (45 min sessions x 4 weeks). Interventions were matched for exercise protocols (trunk, pelvis, lower extremities, upper extremities). Protocols focused on warm-up, trunk mobility, balance training-postural stability, task-oriented exercise (transferring & changing body positions).
  • Outcomes: measures of functional balance (Functional Reach Test), static balance (Berg Balance Scale), disease-specific functional impairments (Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale), gait speed (5m walk test) and functional mobility (Timed up and Go).
  • Both therapies were effective at improving functional balance, but only the aquatic therapy group improved their static balance and disease-specific functional impairments.

Vivas J, Arias P, & Cudeiro J. (2011) Aquatic Therapy Vs. Conventional Land-Based Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease: An Open-Label Pilot Study. Archives of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation, 92: 1202-10.

Aquatic Therapy and Stroke (research review)

December 2018

*Study demonstrates patients with stroke had significantly improved gait (walking) after trunk exercises in water.

  • Participants: 13 rehab patients with hemiplegia post stroke
  • Treatment: 4 weeks of aquatic therapy (trunk-specific exercise) (30 mins x 3 days/week) + regular neurological physiotherapy and occupational therapy
  • Outcomes included gait parameters (gait analysis) + EMG of abdominals/trunk muscles
  • Results: Some improvement in trunk muscle activation. Significant improvement in most gait parameters (gait speed, cycle, affected stance time and step-length, stance phase symmetry

Park et al. (2015). The effects of aquatic trunk exercise on gait and muscle activity in stroke patients: a randomized controlled pilot study. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 27, 3549-3553.

Aquatic Therapy, Pregnancy, and Bed Rest (research review)

January 14, 2019

Every year, about 1 in 4 pregnant women will be prescribed 'bed rest' or activity restriction for pregnancy complications (Maloni, 2010). Bed rest is also prescribed in the treatment of other pregnancy-related conditions. The intent of bed rest is to prevent further complications for the mother and the unborn baby; however, there is evidence that bed rest can have adverse effects including fatigue, muscle weakness, joint pain, cardiovascular deconditioning, and prolonged postpartum recovery (Maloni & Park, 2005). A few studies have examined the benefits of exercise while immersed in water for pregnant women with no medical problems finding that maternal heart rate, blood pressure, core temperature, heat storage, and recovery fetal heart rate were lower during water exercise (Katz et al., 1988).

  • Participants: 40 women with high-risk pregnancies
  • Treatment: 21 remained on bed rest with no intervention, while 19 women participated in group aquatic exercise program (AEP), 3x/week for 1 hour at the hospital. The program included walking, leg lifts and resisted dumbbell work. 
  • Results: The women who received AEP had significant increased Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) and the length of gestation compared to the control group. 
  • Optimal length of gestation and AFI level reduce the risk of negative outcomes associated with preterm birth. The results of this study suggest that aquatic exercise as an intervention during high-risk pregnancy may have health benefits for the mother and her baby.

Sechrist DM et al., (2015) Physiological Effects of Aquatic Exercise in Pregnant Women on Bed Rest. Occup Ther Health Care, 29(3):330-9.