What is Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is a combination of controlled swimming and controlled aquatic exercises, it allows movement without the associated stresses/pressure land based movement creates. Land based exercise and repetitive movement can damage or cause weakness within the skeletal/muscular system. Hydrotherapy allows your hydrotherapist to follow a treatment programme and put your dog through a range of exercises to improve movement and function whilst using the therapeutic properties of the water.

Water heated to 29°c – 31°c provides pain relief and improves blood circulation; this helps to relax the muscles and relieve any form of stiffness within the joints and muscles.

  • Relief from pain
  • Reduced swelling and stiffness
  • Circulatory benefits
  • Improved cardiovascular
  • Improved muscle strength and tone
  • Improved movement and function
  • Improved mental well being
  • Improved gait patterns

Willows Hydrotherapy Blackpool-095

The principles of water

Buoyancy is based on Archimedes’ principle; it is the ‘upward thrust of water acting on the body that creates an apparent reduction in body weight’. Gravity is also acting on the same body, it is the ‘natural downward force on the body. These two forces, when working correctly together, will allow the patient to exercise in an upright position without having to weight-bear on the joints, resulting in reduced pain.

Resistance in the water is present continually, caused by water molecules being tightly packed together. The resistance in the water can be beneficial for muscle growth and strength and improve cardio-vascular fitness.

Hydrostatic pressure is based on ‘Pascal’s Law’. ‘Fluid will exert pressure on all objects that are submerged into it and this pressure is directly proportional to the depth and density of the water’, meaning pressure is felt on the patient weather they are fully or partially immersed in water. This pressure can have positive affects on patients; it helps to reduce oedema and localized swelling in the limbs and joints, which improves the circulatory system and lymphatic system and increases cell metabolism, which in turn helps with the quick removal of toxic substances built up within these systems.

Viscosity is a frictionless resistance due to the cohesive forces between molecules of a liquid. The viscosity of a liquid is significantly greater than air because the molecules in a liquid are more tightly packed together. The effects of viscosity may allow unstable patients to be in the upright position whilst in the water for longer periods of time. This is because it will take them longer to fall over, therefore giving them more time to adjust and rebalance themselves. It is also thought to increase sensory awareness.

Cohesion is the tendency for water molecules to adhere to each other. The cohesive force is greatest at the surface due to surface tension. Exercising a patient on the surface of the water will make it more difficult. When a patient draws their limb close to the surface, or lifts the limb out the water, they will need to work harder. This can benefit patients who need to work a particular joint, or who just need the exercise intensity increasing.

The water temperature needs to be between 29 – 31 Celsius to have therapeutic effects on the patient. When the warm water is applied to the muscle and tissue it causes an increase in elasticity of the muscle tissue, increase in cell metabolism and increases the blood flow and relaxation. All of this then contributes to pain relief, improving movement and enhancing the patient’s performance during treatment. Overall it helps the patient exercise much more comfortably.