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Wellness Matters: The Pool That Isn’t Just for Splashing Around

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

Summer’s a great time for a dip in the pool, but have you ever thought about how the water can help you recover from a lower-body injury? Aquatic physical therapy is an effective technique to relieve pain and help you heal faster. Doctors now prescribe this innovative therapy for many of their patients.

Performed in a specially-equipped pool, aquatic physical therapy uses the water’s resistance to enhance joint movement, reduce stiffness and improve muscle tone. Initial rehabilitation involves light resistance, progressively increasing as muscles strengthen. The technique benefits highly tuned athletes and weekend warriors alike, and is used to treat conditions such as stress fractures, ankle sprains, and knee and foot ligament injuries. “For runners who develop stress fractures and want to stay in shape, aquatic therapy can help reduce muscle pain and swelling,” says Clay Wellborn, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Virginia Hospital Center.

Buoyancy reduces body weight on painful tissues, joints and bones. As a result, you regain strength and range of motion without the pain associated with full weight bearing. Aquatic rehabilitation can improve function, endurance, conditioning, coordination, body mechanics and flexibility. A consistently warm water temperature also helps the body heal.

Another benefit: you can begin aquatic therapy within days of your injury. This helps you stay in shape while your injury heals and promotes a more rapid recovery.

“With aquatic therapy, you’ll progress faster because you can perform more rigorous exercise with less weight bearing on the joints and less pain,” says Lauren Shaub, PT, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist with special training in aquatic therapy. “If you have a stress fracture or ACL repair, you can’t run on land for several months, but you can begin running in the pool within a couple of days. When you transition to land, you’ll run more smoothly and efficiently.”

Virginia Hospital Center’s Aquatic Rehabilitation Center is staffed by specially trained physical therapists, it features a HydroWorx® pool with an underwater treadmill and camera to monitor progress and aid in gait analysis. The Aquatic Rehabilitation Center is located at the Hospital’s Carlin Springs campus at 601 South Carlin Springs Road in Arlington.

The Aquatic Rehabilitation Center was made possible by a legacy gift from the late Georgiana (Gigi) Gordon, an Arlington resident for more than 50 years (Cornerstone article, page 6).

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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