Hydrotherapy for cerebral palsy

Hydrotherapy or 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

Cerebral palsy (CP) and fatigue

Benefits of hydrotherapy

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 cerebral palsy (CP)

For a toddler, 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.

Ageing and cerebral palsy

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

Access to hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy sessions can be available on the NHS. 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.

Find an aquatic therapist (Physio2u)

Find a hydrotherapy pool (Just Swim)

Private healthcare

If you go private, check with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) that the physiotherapist is qualified.

Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC)

You may also want to check the pool and changing rooms before you start.

Checking accessibility

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 more about aquatic therapy or hydrotherapy from: 

Aquatic Therapy Association of Chartered Physiotherapists

Last reviewed by Scope on: 09/11/2023

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