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March 13, 2018

Making a Splash: Is Aquatic Therapy Right for Your Child?

As pediatric therapists, we are always looking for new and different ways to help our clients thrive and achieve their goals. 

Abnormal muscle tone, deficits in range of motion, poor strength, muscle incoordination, and pain are just a few barriers that impact our plans of care and affect client outcomes. For some client populations, performing exercise only on land can be difficult as atypical movement patterns interfere with learning new motor skills and improving strength. 

An effective alternate treatment method turned to is often aquatic therapy.

 

What is aquatic therapy?

Contrary to popular belief, aquatic therapy is not simply performing physical therapy intervention in a pool setting or teaching children how to swim. Aquatic therapy utilizes the physical properties of the water to assist clients in improving motor performance and functional mobility skills. 

The buoyancy of the water provides body weight support and allows for gradual weight bearing for those with pain after surgery. Movement in water is slower than movement in air, and can be used for challenging balance and improving postural reactions. 

Even the temperature of the water can be used to help decrease tone and muscle spasm to improve motor function. Skilled aquatic therapists will utilize the water to facilitate, support, and resist movement for strengthening or increasing active range of motion. 

 

Why choose aquatic therapy?

There is a growing body of research that supports aquatic therapy interventions for improving:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Pain
  • Gait
  • Weight bearing
  • Balance
  • Posture
  • Tone/muscle spasm
  • Sensory integration dysfunction
  • Motor planning 

In pediatrics, the most common client populations served are those with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and children who are medically fragile. 

Aquatic intervention provides a safe environment for clients to exercise while having fun!

 

Is Aquatic Therapy Right for Your Child?

Prior to receiving aquatic therapy services, all clients must receive land-based evaluations to determine if they would benefit from aquatic intervention. 

Some factors, such as fear of water, hypersensitive skin, and impulsive behavior, can be contraindicated to receiving aquatic therapy. It is recommended that you speak with your pediatrician or primary care physician prior to receiving an evaluation to determine if aquatic intervention is right for your child. 

All aquatic therapy sessions are tailored to each child’s specific needs and functional deficits. Our parents and caregivers are also welcome to join aquatic therapy sessions to learn hands-on movement techniques to attempt these activities in the pool. At Curative New Berlin Therapies, we are proud to offer aquatic therapy services three days per week through our partnership with a local health and fitness center.

 

Kelsea Mills, Physical Therapist

Kelsea Mills, PT, DPT, is a pediatric physical therapist at Curative New Berlin Therapies and is the primary provider of aquatic therapy services.  She has a Bachelor and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Marquette University.  Kelsea completed the American Physical Therapy Association’s Certificate in Aquatic Physical Therapy Clinical Competency (CAPTCC) in 2017.  Her specialty areas include helping children with developmental delays, torticollis/plagiocephaly, toe walking, and Cerebral Palsy. She has been trained in serial casting and aquatic intervention. Kelsea enjoys working with families to help children thrive and achieve motor milestones while also incorporating activities into daily routines.

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