Dive In! -- Aquatic Therapy for People With Disabilities
Any movement that provides resistance against the water is good for
stretching and strengthening muscles. Shepherd Center recommends the following
- Swim laps, using a ski belt around the hips (if necessary for floatation)
and hand paddles for added resistance. An inflatable collar can also help keep
water out of the face.
- In shallow water, use foam dumbbells to help build upper-body strength, or
ankle weights to strengthen leg muscles.
- Wear lightweight webbed gloves for added resistance in the water.
- For people with disabilities, practice doing transfers from chair to pool
deck to pool or on pool steps.
- Exercise arm and leg muscles in deep water using an inner tube or
"noodles" under arms.
If you need a more structured exercise program, aquatic classes are
available at many community and fitness centers. Examples of classes to look
- Watsu -- a therapeutic relaxation technique where the therapist moves the
participant through the water. The movement allows for complete relaxation and
can be very beneficial for people with disabilities and for those who
experience chronic pain.
- Ai Chi -- similar to Tai Chi but it?s done in the water, using a
combination of deep breathing and slow broad movements.
- Water yoga -- Using the same concepts as yoga on land, water yoga is
designed to relieve stress, but movements help build internal energy and
strength. Techniques are also designed to help with balance, flexibility, and
- Low impact aquatic classes -- provide an aerobic workout and strength
training without putting pressure on joints.
Swimming for People With Disabilities; Association of Swimming
Therapy (1992); London: Bedford Row Publishing.
Watsu: Freeing the Body in Water; Dull, H. (1993); Harbin Springs
Shepherd Center in Atlanta is a private, not-for-profit
hospital specializing in the care of people with spinal cord injury and
disease, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and other neuromuscular
disorders and urological problems. The Center houses the largest model spinal
cord injury program in the country, the largest brain injury rehabilitation
program in Georgia, and an official Multiple Sclerosis Center, designated by
the National Multiple Sclerosis Society-Georgia Society. Serving the Southeast
since 1975, the 100-bed specialty hospital offers a continuum of health care
services, from intensive care through rehabilitation, transitional care, day
program, and outpatient services.