Written by:
Johan Lambeck Bsc., IATF Senior Lecturer
Edited by:

drs. Ing. Eric Legdeur Msc, Owner-Manager EWAC BV

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

Aquatic Therapy safe and beneficial for patients with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

In a new study into heart rate variability in patients suffering from Coronary Artery disease, two exercise modalities were tested. One group carried out …

Carrie Lam inaugurates new Haven of Hope Hospital in Hong Kong

Carrie Lam, Chief executive of Hong Kong, officiated at the opening ceremony of Haven of Hope in Hong Kong on June 15, 2022. She said …

Spain | Madrid: New project finished

Another huge success for our crack engineering team by commissioning  a new 4 x 5 m movable pool floor system, equipped with underwater treadmill, …

AMTA Course Certification Water Specific Therapy (Mexico)

From Friday August 19 until Tuesday August 23 in 2022, AMTA will organize an international course for the certification of professionals in the field …

IATF publishes new statement about Post COVID treatment

As of March 14, 2022, IATF have published their new and updated statement with regards to the application of Aquatic Therapy in the treatment …

Aquatic therapy in the rehabilitation of Sports Injuries

Article Based on: *) Prins (1999) Aquatic therapy in the rehabilitation of athletic injuries Lambeck (2015) Proprioceptive and muscular training through therapeutic aquatic exercise …

Many advantages of a movable pool floor with underwater treadmill

Having a movable swimming pool floor offers a lot of advantages. Adding an underwater treadmill to the system brings even more! Advantages of a movable …

Aquatic HIIT improves health in women | Systematic review

In a new systematic review by Manny Kwok, Shamay Ng, S. Man and Billy So of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, a positive relation …

IATF Enhancing the quality of aquatic therapy for subacute and chronic stroke patients

Introduction Stroke is the leading cause of death and disability globally with 116m years of healthy life lost each year to the disease1. Almost …