Since the time of the Roman baths, humans have purposely used water to both soothe and exercise the body. Today, even some veterinarians use water therapy for their animal patients.
The properties of water act to facilitate a protective environment, thus providing optimum healing. When injuries occur, water training is a great exercise modality. If the upper body is injured, shallow water training will be the easiest modality. If the lower body is injured, deep water training may be the best choice since the lower body may be completely unloaded to impact. Water exercise is especially beneficial since overall body training and stabilization may be trained by the natural resistance of the water.
The properties of water that help to heal and facilitate injured or frail individuals are as follows:
Buoyancy is the upward thrust exerted by water on a body that is completely or partially immersed. Water acts as a cushion for your weight-bearing joints, thus preventing injury, strain and re-injury common to other exercise programs.
Water provides a compression of 14 lbs. per square inch on submerged objects (Source: Robert Foster, director of Robert Foster Physical Therapy and Water Rehab Center). This acts like an Ace bandage, compressing capillaries and assisting venous flow return, thus decreasing swelling and water retention.
Water acts like ice, providing a counter-irritant, i.e., a surface stimulus to override pain on an injured area. It acts as a pain-killer raising the threshold of the nerves that signal when you are in pain.
Resistance in the water is, in effect, a natural three-dimensional weight training machine that is instantly adjustable, i.e. the harder you push/pull, the more resistance you will experience.
Loading the joint or weight bearing in the water is working so that there is some gravity or vertical stress on the joints and the muscles. Shallow water is the easiest depth to control and work in. Also, squats and rebounding for lower body strengthening will be more easily programmed in this depth.
Unloading the joint or non-weight bearing in the water is working in suspended or deep water so that there is minimal gravity or vertical stress on the joints. There is still opportunity for muscular function, strength and balance; however, this is generally a harder depth to control good posture and balance. The athlete will re-quire more skills and individual attention to maintain correct body alignment.
“SHALLOW” H20 DEPTH
…is defined as waist-to-chest depth to allow the knees to bend to get the shoulders under for the neutral working position.
Approximately 25 percent vertical stress at chest depth or 50 percent vertical stress at waist depth
The feet are able to easily touch the pool bottom to more easily anchor the body’s position.
The base of balance is the feet (a wider base is easier). This is an easier and more effective depth to perform squats in. To load more, have the participant move to waist-depth
May easily train every component of fitness; however, cardiovascular training and lower body strength may be greater if a person loads their lower body at waist depth, especially with walking (most people choose to go to a deeper shallow depth than they need)