Recovering from surgery or dealing with an injury or chronic condition can make working out seem like an impossible task.
But even if you have limited ability to exercise, OrthoCarolina‘s Aquatic Therapy program can help improve flexibility, muscle tone and even make sure you’ve got a normal gait when you get back on land. We sat down with Cheryl Bennett, the aquatic therapist at OC’s University location, to talk about how it’s cool to get in the (therapeutic) pool.
Cheryl says most people recovering from joint surgeries (lower back, knee, ankle, etc.) should consider getting into aquatic therapy as soon as their incisions have healed. It makes for a quicker transition to walking on land, and can even improve their chances of having a normal gait.
But it’s not just for post-surgery recovery. If you have chronic lower back or joint pain and have been avoiding exercise as a result, Cheryl says she can help get you back on your feet.
She also said it’s great for people who are recovering from a sports injury, and even overweight people who might have problems with traditional exercise.
Why is exercise sometimes better, wetter?
Water reduces the affects of gravity, which can make it easier to move an injured or chronically painful joint.
“Immersion changes the amount of weight bearing on your joints. With each depth, it gets easier to stand on that injured part,” Cheryl says. “The water reduces the stress and pressure of all that body weight on muscles, joints, tendons and bones.”
The warm water can also soothe tired and aching joints, and aquatic therapy can often begin sooner than land-based physical therapy.
Not your traditional swimming pool
OrthoCarolina has two pools: one at the University location and one at Eastover. But you won’t find an Olympic-sized pool in either office. That’s because Cheryl and her staff aren’t teaching patients to swim. In a typical aquatic therapy session, you may see a patient walking on an underwater treadmill or doing leg lifts.
OC’s pools are about six feet by 18 feet and have a depth of 3.6 to 4.6 feet.
“As long as the patient is comfortable in deeper water, we keep them in there,” Cheryl says. “We use an underwater treadmill to watch your gait and correct your gait pattern if necessary.”
How long and how often you get in the pool will depend on your specific issue.
It’s in demand
Since Cheryl is one of the only licensed aquatic physical therapist assistants in the area, she stays busy. She sees an average of 120 patients per month.
“We can increase your flexibility, overall muscle strength, core engagement …” Cheryl says. “We can do it all.”
Want to learn more about aquatic therapy? Visit www.orthocarolina.com.
Cheryl Bennett is a physical therapist assistant who’s been with OrthoCarolina for more than 17 years. She’s been an aquatic therapist for five years and treats aquatic patients three days a week. She specializes in cervical, lower back pain, shoulder, knee, foot and ankle rehab. In her spare time she loves gardening, hiking, singing in the chancel choir at her church and spending time with her four grandchildren.