Palliative Care Aquatic Therapy

adult helping child doing aquatic therapy in poolDifferent complex medical conditions all require different treatment for children with limiting illnesses. Some  may wonder what aquatic therapy is and how can it help their child? At George Mark Children’s House, we develop an individualized care plan for each child, coordinating services among the George Mark care team—pediatricians, nurses and nursing assistants, social worker, child life specialist, palliative aquatics specialist, psychologist, support staff and volunteers. It is important to pay attention to the needs of the child so the best treatment is given to them. Depending on the child’s needs, palliative care aquatic therapy may be the best option.

What is Aquatic Therapy?

If you are looking for the perfect care plan for your child you may be wondering what is aquatic therapy? Well, aquatic therapy or pool therapy is a type of therapy that takes place in water. Exercising in the water can benefit those with musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders along with many other conditions ranging from stress and depression to osteoarthritis and scoliosis. Aquatic therapy uses water resistance instead of weights or gravity which reduces stress on the joints. 

After the treatment plan is decided, you will be led through personalized exercise by a professional, much like physical therapy in water.

Benefits Of Aquatic Therapy

Increase in joint flexibility

  • Water reduces the weighing down effects of gravity, making aquatic therapy easier on joints and increasing their overall range of motion

Increase in muscle strength

  • Water is anywhere from 600 to 700 times more resistive than air, which gives weakened muscles the opportunity to gain strength, without the pressure

Decrease in pain

  • Aquatics therapy is a pain-free option that will help patients recover from a wide range of injuries and conditions. Immersion in warm water not only increases the patient’s comfort level but also promotes blood supply to sore muscles.

Improves balance

  • Once again, the pressure of water combined with buoyancy supports the body, allowing you to focus on increasing your balance without the fear of falling

Aquatic Therapy For Children

Working with younger patients in need of physical therapy can sometimes be a challenge for clinicians. Children’s needs and desires when it comes to exercises and limitations differ from adults. Other than being a very beneficial type of therapy, aquatic therapy can actually be fun for children which is why medical professionals ,and children may prefer this therapy over others.

 Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Kids

  • Reduces pain and discomfort in physical therapy patients of all ages — this means children are less reluctant to fully engage in pediatric water therapy than they might be for land sessions.
  • Is seen as fun for kids. As long as they have no fears of the water, they enjoy the sessions and see it as a pleasure, not a task.
  • Has a recreational feeling to it, not a clinical feeling. If a child has associated his or her trauma, condition or illness with clinical experiences, land sessions may be psychologically challenging. Water therapy sessions will seem less intimidating.
  • Being in the warm water helps to soothe an irritable nervous system, facilitate deep relaxation, and promote maximum movement and a feeling of well-being.

If a child has experienced trauma from medical treatments or is being reluctant to therapy, aquatic therapy may be the best option. You can talk to your care team about the possibility of adding this to the treatment plan.

In our program at George Mark Hospital, special lighting, sound, gentle touch and deep silence are incorporated into sessions to maximize a child’s experience. Benefits include better respiratory efficiency, deeper sleep, increased mobility, and an overall sense of enhanced quality of life (Adapted from Beneath the Surface: Experiences in Palliative Aquatics, by Sheila Pyatt, BSN, Pediatric Palliative Aquatics Specialist).