I recently was diagnosed with Cervical Dystonia and Occipital neuralgia after an 8 month headache and right trapezius muscle being in a constant state of spasm. Even though I deal with Chronic Pain daily this was a whole new level of pain for me. I finally understood what people meant by calling certain chronic illness “suicide disease”. Personally I had not dealt with this kind of pain, at this level and frequency thus far. I know in the past doing physical therapy on land was a challenge for me, so I asked my doctor if we could try aqua therapy and he agreed.
Aquatic therapy, or pool therapy, consists of an exercise program that is performed in the water. It is a beneficial form of therapy that is useful for a variety of medical conditions. Aquatic therapy uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing and exercise performance.
Aquatic therapy in a heated therapeutic pool can help you meet a variety of goals. The warm water helps to increase circulation, respiratory rate, muscle metabolism, strength, flexibility and ease of movement while reducing pain through decreased weight-bearing and reduced joint stress.
Benefits of aquatic therapy:
- Reduces stress on weight-bearing joints and the spine
- Allows you to exercise without harming already affected joints and muscles
- Increases circulation
- Offers resistance to strengthen muscles differently than land exercise
- Promotes relaxation and pain relief
So as I started my therapy I was dreading it. In the past I found Physical Therapy to be painful. Well this time was different. We started with some simple getting into the 94 degree pool slowly and comfortably. The first session was spent walking in the water forward, sideways, backwards, and heal to toe. Followed that up with some light stretches and simply exercises. Finally we ended with me doing a lazy float wearing a flotation piece around my neck and a pool noodle. My body was to float vertically as to stretch my spine and neck. when I was done and getting out of the pool I felt like a baby elephant was placed on my back. The therapist was there to wrap me in warm towels and guide me back to the locker room.
I spent the next day or so wrapped up in blankets trying to decide if I wanted to continue or not. On one hand the warm water felt so good, but on the other hand my body felt so bad. I figured I had spent enough time fighting to get someone to pay attention to my new issues that I better go ahead and continue my therapy. The next few visits were similar as before but we increased reps and extended holding time for stretches.
I also found that getting into and out of the pool got easier for me. The warm water was a huge relief on my muscles, spine, and body. I was able to do my therapy and started to see some results. As time continued We added harder exercises, stretches and more tools to assist me.
There is a large assortment of tools to be used in the pool from foam weights, rubber bands, exercise bikes, treadmills and beyond.
Personally I despise treadmills and avoid them like the plague. I can now say for the first time in my life I am comfortable using a treadmill if it is in the water. My back, knees, and everything else that hurts when walking on land did not give me trouble while walking on a treadmill in water. It was so freeing and relaxing to be able to just walk and not worry about the pain, falling, or need for support.
As the weeks progressed, I started to find relief from the pool, exercises, stretches, and the rest of my therapy. This was the first time in a long time I felt therapy and exercising was something I could be able to accomplish and that it truly was helping me versus hindering me. I am now graduated from Aqua therapy and have regained some of my life back.. The pool I did therapy at has a program where I can pay a monthly fee and be able to use the pool and equipment on my own. So now I can continue to work on my abilities, strength, and more on my own. This has been a huge blessing for me. I would suggest that anyone who lives with chronic pain and illness talk with your doctor about Aqua Therapy, or maybe look into local Gyms, swimming pools, YMCA, and such to see if they have a Therapy pool that you could use. The benefit is truly it worth it in my opinion.
I am a chronic pain/illness warrior who currently has multiple diagnosis and is also working on trying to live healthier. I recently have had to adjust my life and make changes due to pharmaceutical side effects that make the benefit no longer worth it. I advocate for numerous diagnosis and volunteer with International Support Fibromyalgia Network, US Pain Foundation, MS Society and a few others. I coordinate a local in person and online support group, as well as an international online group and several other social media platforms. I believe we as patients need to be the advocates to make an impact on the world and bring our issues to life.