Pérez-de la Cruz (2020) Comparison of Aquatic Therapy vs. Dry Land Therapy to Improve Mobility of Chronic Stroke Patients

Introduction to Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke, a leading cause of disability, often results in significant motor function loss, including hemiparetic gait and balance issues, increasing the risk of falls. Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in functional recovery, with aquatic therapy emerging as a beneficial modality due to the unique properties of water, such as buoyancy and viscosity, offering a supportive environment for exercise.

Study Objective and Design

This randomized controlled trial aimed to compare the effectiveness of dry land therapy, Ai Chi aquatic therapy, and a combination of both in improving pain, gait, and balance in chronic stroke patients. Forty participants were divided into three groups, with assessments using the Tinetti balance and gait scale, the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) for pain, 360° turn, single-leg stance, and the 30-second stand test (CS-30).

Interventions and Outcomes

The dry land therapy group engaged in supervised sessions including walking and trunk mobility exercises. The experimental group participated in Ai Chi aquatic therapy, focusing on balance, strength, and relaxation. The combined group alternated between dry land and aquatic sessions. Post twelve weeks of treatment, significant improvements were observed in the combined and aquatic therapy groups compared to the dry land group, particularly in pain reduction, CS-30, and 360° turn. However, for the Tinetti scale and single-leg stance, improvements were noticeable but not statistically significant.

Discussion on Therapy Effects

Aquatic therapy, especially Ai Chi, leverages water’s resistance and supportive features to enhance mobility and reduce fall risk. The combined approach of aquatic and dry land therapy proved most effective, suggesting that integrating various therapy modalities can optimize stroke rehabilitation outcomes. The study supports aquatic therapy’s inclusion in chronic stroke rehabilitation, highlighting its potential to improve patients’ functional capacity and quality of life.

Conclusion and Future Directions

The study concludes that both Ai Chi aquatic therapy and a combined approach with dry land therapy are effective in enhancing pain management, balance, and gait in chronic stroke patients, with benefits persisting post-therapy. These findings advocate for the inclusion of aquatic therapy in stroke rehabilitation programs, urging further research with larger samples to validate these results.

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