How Aquatic Therapy Can Benefit People With Parkinson’s Disease

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by Jo Gambosi |

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Spending time in the water can be refreshing, relaxing, and healing for both the body and the soul. For those with Parkinson’s disease (PD), performing exercises or movements in the water, a practice known as aquatic therapy, may be especially beneficial.

Because water reduces the stress and pressure on the body, aquatic therapy is commonly recommended for exercise and rehabilitation. A study published last year in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation noted that, “Aquatic therapy is a popular exercise choice for people with Parkinson’s disease, especially in the early to middle disease stages.”

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It can not only strengthen muscles, improve balance and posture, and decrease stiffness, but also help people to manage both motor and nonmotor symptoms.

Because the water’s buoyancy helps to support a person’s weight, patients don’t have to expend as much energy keeping their body supported and upright during aquatic therapy. This may be particularly helpful for those who suffer from fatigue.

The water’s buoyancy and support can also help PD patients stretch and exercise if they have balance or posture issues that increase the risk of falling on land.

The gentle resistance of the water allows people to practice strengthening exercises without using weights. For those with PD, stronger muscles can improve stability, balance, and posture, which in turn can make it easier to complete daily tasks.

Emotionally, aquatic therapy can help build confidence and contribute to greater independence. The opportunity for socialization can decrease feelings of isolation. The therapy may also reduce stress, as warm water relaxes muscles and relieves tension, soothing both mind and body.

My sister, Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s, is fortunate to live in a community with a recreation center that has both an outdoor and indoor pool, which is much-needed during the frigid Ohio winters! She has gait and balance issues, and being in the heated pool helps her to both relax and strengthen her leg muscles. “And in the water when I use a float to help me balance, I don’t have to worry about falling,” Bev said with a chuckle.

When Bev goes to her water therapy class, she is with others who are affected by PD or other movement disorders. They are able to have meaningful conversations about Parkinson’s as well as life outside of the illness.

Because people with PD can benefit from aquatic therapy, they may want to look into local aquatic therapy facilities where trained instructors guide the exercises. Of course, it’s always important to talk with one’s healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen.

For more information about aquatic therapy, check out this free, downloadable booklet from the American Parkinson Disease Association.

Have you or a loved one tried aquatic therapy for Parkinson’s? Please share your experience in the comments below.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Comments

Ray Clayton avatar

Ray Clayton

I was very interested to read your article about Aquatic Therapy. I was diagnosed with PD in December 2020 and apart from the shock of this news I had had a Stroke just the year before and was slowly recovering from this at the time. I had already joined my local Swimming Pool and was religiously getting up at 6 in the morning to venture to the pool to swim up to 50 lengths, daily. Boy did I feel better for it!! It really set me up for the day. Unfortunately, I had to stop in June last year as I caught an infection in my foot, just as I was going for a Knee Replacement Operation. This was consequently canceled as it became a major risk of potential infection for the proposed knee. After 2 more cancellations, I eventually had a very successful knee op in November. I now need to get back into the swimming routine and this article has reminded me of how enjoyable, healthy and exhilarating those swimming sessions were. I am due to start PD Warrior training next week as well. This Vicious disease is starting to get the better of me, slowly but surely.

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Patricia A Conner avatar

Patricia A Conner

i swim three times a week aquatic . i then walk in the pool as i am not afraid of falling. i was doing this before i had parkinson. Along came covid and pools shut down. that is when i learnet, i had parkinson. in addition to the good it does, i also get out and socialize with fellow pool members. you feel so normal in a pool. at first, you might hurt from the excercise but three times later, that pain is now starting to be muscle. . best water is thermal and warm but if not available, take what is available.

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Rob Sleamaker avatar

Rob Sleamaker

Thank you for this article. My mom (deceased in 1996) had PD-like symptoms. It's true that exercising in an aquatic environment is beneficial for many reasons, so I am glad to read that it is beneficial for those with PD. But not everyone has access to a pool. Would the swimming exercise motion available on a land-based swim ergometer like the Vasatrainer.com SwimErg also be a good supplement? It's no-impact, the resistance is a fan wheel that feels like pulling the arm through the water, and you don't have to get wet. It's very accessible. How would I find out if it helps people with PD? Thank you!

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