Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy, sometimes called aqua therapy, takes place in a specially heated pool. It can provide a supportive environment for exercises that help you achieve your physiotherapy goals, such as improving:

  • mobility
  • stamina and exercise tolerance
  • joint range of movement
  • muscle length

Advantages of hydrotherapy for people with Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Hydrotherapy can:

  • provide relaxation and an opportunity to stretch muscles
  • improve muscle tone
  • improve strength
  • increase circulation
  • improve joint range of movement
  • allow freedom of movement due to the difference in weight bearing
  • reduce the discomfort associated with CP

For a toddler with CP, hydrotherapy may help with gross motor skills, such as weight-bearing activities.

For an older child or adult, hydrotherapy may provide strengthening exercises to work on stamina.

For adults with severe symptoms, hydrotherapy may reduce discomfort and increase or maintain functional ability and activity.

How can I access hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy sessions are available on the NHS. Most hospitals have access to hydrotherapy pools. Any member of the healthcare team can refer you to an NHS physiotherapist. In some parts of the UK, you can refer yourself. Ask your doctor if an NHS physio in your area will accept self-referrals.

Private healthcare

If you go private, check with the Health Professionals Council (HPC) that the physiotherapist is qualified. You may also want to check the pool and changing rooms before you start.

Initial assessment

Before you start hydrotherapy, the physio will ask you about your general health and assess your individual needs. This initial assessment takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Courses of hydrotherapy vary but are usually 5 or 6 half-hour sessions.

Not all physiotherapy departments have a hydrotherapy pool. You may have to travel to another hospital.

Hydrotherapy: further resources

Find an aquatic therapist or hydrotherapist on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) website and Versus Arthritis.

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