In a new systematic review and meta-analysis, Jitka Veldema and Petra Jansen from the Regensburg University in Germany conclude that Aquatic Therapy has some important benefits for stroke rehabilitation.
This meta-analysis of 28 controlled studies (N=961) shows that water-based therapy is highly effective – and superior to land-based interventions – in supporting e.g. gait, balance, strength, proprioception, cardiovascular fitness, physiological indicators in stroke patients. The effectiveness of aquatic therapy depends on technique used. Standardized concepts (WST-Halliwick, BRRM, Ai Chi) are more effective than interventions without standardization like e.g. water-based walking or stretching. Some effect sizes for concepts in relation to land-based interventions were 0.76 for gait, 1.64 for balance and 0.96 overall. There is no evidence yet on cognitive abilities to be included in a review, but promising developments have been described in the article.
Note: the high effect sizes are related with the possibility to choose the appropriate depth for the particular patient, for instance by using a movable swimming pool floor.
The researchers conclude that “Future research should devote more attention to this highly potent intervention.”