Hydrotherapy is a specialised mode of physiotherapy, which involves the use of water as a medium to provide support, resistance and other effects that can otherwise not be utilised outside the water. It can be used to treat a very wide spectrum of conditions over a wide range of patient groups. Examples are arthritis and cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation for adult patients, but also soothing and relation activities for children with Celebral Palsy (CP).

Even though hydrotherapy resembles swimming, there is a difference where the individual is required to undertake exercises in the warm water. The temperature is usually between 28 and 32ºC. This is a lot higher than in a normal swimming pool. The treatment usually takes place in a hospital’s physiotherapy department, by specially trained physiotherapist. Also other movement specialists, who have received training for working in water can administer the exercises.

What is the difference between Hydrotherapy and Aquatic Therapy?

Hydrotherapy includes all possible therapy modes that involve the use of water. This can range from completely passive floating in water, therapist induced exercises up to active exercises based on therapist instruction. Aquatic therapy does not include passive treatment of individuals in water, but includes active exercises in water based on instructions from a therapist. Therefore it can be said that Aquatic therapy is active, water based therapy. Read more about Aquatic Therapy vs Hydrotherapy.

Why is hydrotherapy good for you?

Hydrotherapy offers a lot of advantages over alternative therapies because it offers:

  • an opportunity for an earlier start in a (muscular) re‑education program after injury compared to land based therapies
  • an increased amount of degrees of freedom, and therefore in water exercises possible that are not possible on land
  • treatment of impairments like pain, decreased range of motion, decrea­sed strength and stiffness
  • increasing the upper body strength, treating posture stability problems of upper body stiffness or weakness and promoting gait during walking
  • improved cardio‑vascular and respiratory functi­ons
  • a positive effect on overall, as well as local metabolism. This reduces arousal, pain and stiffness
  • the benefit of therapeutic, prophylactic and cosmetic effects
  • easy easily adaptation to patient‑specific needs and can simply be applied in a progressive way, from a non-weight-bearing to a full-weight-bearing program
  • the possibility to handle even the very heavy patients with great ease
  • the possibility to engage the patient in a positive way, promoting their compliance, by introducing playful activities
  • a warm, safe and low impact exercise environment
  • the possibility for the (physio-)therapist to observe the total body and check e.g. body alignment

What are the advantages of exercising in warm water?

  • Ligaments and muscles become more flexible, increasing the range of motion of joints
  • Joint loading is decreased as a result of buoyancy
  • Movement speeds are restricted as a result of higher density and viscosity of the water
  • Pain sensation is reduced, for reasons not yet entirely understood
  • Blood is moved from the extremities to the core, increasing central blood volume, increasing the efficiency of the heart
Methods in hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy, or Aquatic Physical Therapy is primarily focused on exercise in water but also includes hands-on techniques. It can include some of the methods mentioned underneath:

  • Halliwick
  • Bad Ragaz Ring Method
  • Deep Water Running (DWR)
  • Watsu
  • Ai Chi

Read more about methods in hydrotherapy and aquatic therapy

ICEBAT Webinar 28 february – Aquatic Therapy – neurophysiology of persistent pain

On February 28, ICEBAT will broadcast the third edition of their online webinar, entitled "Aquatic Therapy - neurophysiology of persistent pain" Presenters: Oliver Krouwel MSc, …

Aquatic Therapy: a valuable intervention in neurological and geriatric physiotherapy

Aquatic therapy has long been a valuable resource that we should not lose sight of. There are also many interesting developments in this form …

Water specific motor-cognitive therapy, prevention of cognitive degeneration

Chronic low grade inflammation leads to gradual cognitive degeneration. With the coming of the world wide Covid virus, cytokines are coming into view as …

Water specific therapy in children with CP

This month a new article has emerged from Eric Meyer (website) about the positive effects of water specific therapy on the motor skills of …

IATF Swiss course 2021 – October

Due to reconstruction and reorganization, the course "Advanced Studies in Aquatic Therapy" has changed to Landeyeux in the French speaking part of Switzerland, about …

Post-ICU Aquatic Therapy; the untold story of embodiment

Reasoning behind early Aquatic Therapy intervention may be found to be unclear for many healthcare professionals. As testified during the latest podcast by Eugenia …

Latest podcast Aquatics: Early activity and mobilization for ICU patients

Last week the Podcast channel Aquatics, organised by Eugenia Hernández, came out with a new podcast in her series about Aquatic Therapy. This podcast …

Update: Bonus ICEBAT Aquatic Therapy Webinars

The first ICEBAT webinar on Sunday October 11 was a great success with good attendance. Participants have congratulated the team for the comprehensive information. ICEBAT …

Latest podcast Aquatics: the right equipment for rehabilitation

Last week the Podcast channel Aquatics, organised by Eugenia Hernández, came out with a new podcast in her series about Aquatic Therapy. In this …

Latest Video