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  • Writer's pictureAbby Myers

What is Aquatic Therapy?

Aquatic therapy is similar to traditional physical therapy, but takes place in a warm-water therapy pool, allowing up to 90% reduction of body weight due to the buoyancy of the water. The warm temperature of the water relaxes muscles and increases blood flow, improving flexibility. Aquatic therapy is supervised by a certified physical therapist or physical therapist assistant.

Aquatic Therapy Pool at Mountain Physical Therapy in Kalispell
Aquatic Therapy Pool at Mountain Physical Therapy in Kalispell

What are the benefits of Aquatic Therapy?

Aquatic exercise allows for a longer workout with the same intensity but at a lower heart rate and with decreased joint and muscle pain compared to land-based exercise. It improves the use of joints affected by arthritis and decreases pain, making it a good option for people who cannot tolerate land-based activity.

Aquatic therapy can improve and maintain bone health while decreasing disability in older adults. Additionally, it helps to increase range of motion, strength, and cardiovascular endurance. The water allows for strengthening by providing equal resistance throughout the entire range of motion, while the hydrostatic pressure of the water strengthens the respiratory muscles. Further, aquatic exercise has been proven to be a mood booster by its ability to relax the mind and body.

Who can benefit from Aquatic Therapy?

Some of the populations who do well with aquatic exercise include:

  • Athletes

  • Post-surgical patients (once incision heals)

  • People with impaired balance

  • People who have arthritis

  • People with neurological conditions

  • People who live with chronic pain

  • People looking to lose weight

Who should not perform Aquatic Therapy?

Aquatic therapy is inappropriate for:

  • Anyone currently running a high fever

  • Anyone with open wounds (unless covered by a bio-occlusive dressing)

  • People experiencing incontinence

  • Anyone with an uncontrolled seizure disorder

  • Anyone who is currently taking medication that could alter cognition

  • Anyone with a severe chlorine or bromine allergy

  • People with a serious fear of water


  1. Health benefits of water-based exercise. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 4 May 2016.

  2. Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 18 October 2019.

  3. Rehabilitation. Bitterroot Health. Aquatic Physical Therapy.

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