Aquatic physiotherapy for children is more than just learning to swim or playing in the water – although it may involve these things too!
Aquatic physiotherapy combines the properties of water with the clinical reasoning skills of the physiotherapist to create a program specific to the child. It includes individual assessment and reassessment in regards to the child and families’ goals, and is in keeping with evidence based practice.
Safety and risk management is an important aspect of aquatic physiotherapy. All children will complete a medical screening form to ensure that water immersion is appropriate and to determine any measures that may need to be put in place to optimise the child’s safety.
Physiotherapists utilise the properties of the water, such as buoyancy and drag, to aide treatment in the water.
The aquatic environment offers man benefits. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Decreases neurological muscle tone
Children with increased muscle tone are able to move more freely and increase muscle stretch;
- Increases muscle strength
Muscles that are weak on land are able to activate with the reduced gravity – alternately turbulence may be used to further strengthen muscles;
- Improves postural control and balance
Water buoyancy and turbulence offers many opportunities to challenge balance and postural muscles;
- Improves movement initiation and coordination
Children may move with more confidence when supported in the water, and without fear of falls, when they can’t on land;
- Offers variation in sensory input
Including vestibular, tactile and proprioceptive inputs;
- Improves cardiovascular and respiratory fitness
Particularly for children who may be more limited in their movement on land;
- Relaxation and fun!
Children move and play in the water intuitively. The pool offers an alternative to a land-based therapy environment, from which many children experience fatigue.
It is important to note that aquatic physiotherapy is to be used as part of a holistic management plan for children. It offers a wonderful environment for children to develop their movement skills, always relating back to the child and families’ goals.
B. App. Sci. (physio); Mast. Physio