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Winter 2011

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The Healing Benefits of Water

Rehabilitation Pools Offer Relaxation and Relief

By Lisa Nagg

Since ancient times, people have enjoyed the therapeutic benefits of water. The soothing properties of water therapy (also called hydrotherapy, aquatic therapy or pool therapy) make it ideal for helping stroke survivors recover from balance issues, chronic pain and fear of falling. It is easy to believe that something so relaxing and enjoyable is an excellent form of therapy.

Water has rehabilitating qualities and strokes can be debilitating.  Stroke survivors who are hampered with limitations such as loss of muscular strength may find that water therapy can significantly enhance their recovery and can offer the hope of a better quality of life.

Greater Mobility

In water, body weight is decreased by up to 90 percent; buoyancy makes moving easier. Water supports the body, improving a person’s balance and coordination. This support allows a person to gain confidence in movement abilities. People have greater flexibility in water, allowing them to exercise and stretch their muscles in ways that are not possible on land, with much less risk of falling while doing so.

Greater Strength

Since in water, people are more stable, it is possible to gain more strength in less time in water than it is on land due to water’s resistance. Water is denser than air, so water increases the resistance on muscles. Resistance increases blood flow, which in turn increases a person’s ability to regain muscle and motor performance. Water therapy is an extremely gentle form of exercise that is one of the most effective ways to build strength and improve cardiovascular capabilities. A stronger body can mean more competence in performing daily activities on land.

Pain Relief

In addition to offering a more stable and gentle exercise environment, water rehab can help with pain management. Therapeutic water kept warm—between 88 and 96 degrees—can relieve aches and pains. Often, stroke survivors experience head pain. Warm water can soothe head pain even though the head is never put underwater during therapy. Muscles and tension in the head are loosened because the rest of the body is submerged in warm water. Warm water can calm the body, along with lowering blood pressure and heart rate by increasing the body’s endorphins, known as natural painkillers. The result of all of this is that stroke survivors using water therapy can feel better more quickly.

Although not all rehabilitation centers have pools, survivors can take control of their own health by seeking a rehab center that offers water therapy.  Ask a healthcare professional or local rehab center where the closest water therapy pool is located.

Harnessing the healing power of water can help improve motor control, gain strength and reduce pain for a smoother road to recovery.  


Lisa Nagg, author of the book Christians Curing Cancer, is a 37-year-old mother of three who survived a major stroke last year. She has been in rehab since then and finds water therapy to be the most beneficial.


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