One of the questions every injured patient wants to know is how long his or her rehabilitation time will be. Not surprisingly, the answer will vary depending upon a number of factors, including the type of injury suffered, the age of the patient, the degree of injury, the health of the patient and, most integral to the topic of this article, the rehab treatment plan. In general, patients are expected to accept the following injury rehabilitation timeframes (which are rough estimates)*:
- Achilles tendon ruptures: 4 to 6 months
- ACL repair: up to 6 months
- Bone fractures: 3 to 10 weeks
- Rotator cuff tendinopathy: 2 to 12 weeks
- Shoulder impingement: 2 to 12 weeks
- Shoulder separation: 2 weeks
- Sprains: a few days to several months
The good news is that healing can sometimes be hastened. Depending upon the modalities utilized by the physical or occupational therapist, a patient can expect to see significant improvements over a shorter-than-average period of time. One of those modalities is aquatic therapy.
WHY WATER REHAB WORKS TO ACCELERATE HEALING
Objective scientific studies, as well as reputable feedback from top clinicians, have indicated that water rehabilitation therapy can considerably cut patients’ expected rehabilitation times. In a healthcare environment, aqua rehab allows patients to more quickly move through the system without compromising outcomes. Because it is relatively pain-free, patients are more compliant; in fact, many physical and occupational therapists have reported that fewer patients miss or reschedule appointments because the water rehab makes it easier for them to move and regain function. Thus, more patients can be seen over a prescribed period of time, while receiving cutting edge care. As a result, every party involved wins: The patient can return to his or her preferred lifestyle activities faster than expected, and the healthcare facility can assist more people each year.
Similarly, aquatic therapy in a sports setting can get an athlete back “in the game” faster than ever. In terms of professional athletic teams, getting star players on the field, ice or court sooner rather than later can make a huge difference for team morale and reputation as well as the franchise’s finances. This makes it aquatic therapy a practical, safe solution for strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers and coaches.
Water has a well-deserved reputation for healing
Many people have turned to warm water as a healing element; in fact, it’s one of the primary reasons that families and individuals often purchase spas and hot tubs for their private use. They know that their bodies will feel more refreshed and relaxed after being in the water for a period of time. In fact, even veterinarians have prescribed aqua rehab for horses, dogs and cats (yes, even some felines enjoy the feeling of being in the water) who have suffered joint conditions.
Physical and occupational therapists are similarly using the natural properties of water to help their patients speed up recovery, minimize the loss of range of motion (especially important when the injury is located in a joint), increase blood circulation and decrease inflammation. In a therapy pool, patients feel up to 80% lighter than on land depending on the depth of the water surrounding them. Thus, land-based therapy options like walking (and even running) can be undertaken without fear of re-injury.
As Kelly McFarland, PT, DPT and owner of Premier Rehab Physical Therapy has noted: “[Aquatic therapy] is an amazing state of the art option to incorporate into a patient’s rehabilitation program. We have been able to progress patients’ programs more quickly with so many different diagnoses . . .” McFarland’s positive observations have been echoed by other therapy professionals who have helped patients recover faster from fractures, sprains, broken bones, joint surgeries, ACL tears/repairs and more by getting them moving in an aquatic therapy pool as quickly as possible.
Though statistics are only now being amassed on the popularity of aquatic therapy, its rate of prescription is absolutely increasing. According to figures compiled from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Aquaticnet.com and the National Swimming Pool Foundation, water rehabilitation is being widely chosen around the United States:
- In private physical therapy settings, aquatic therapy is increasing in popularity as per Medicare’s yearly reported billings.
- Medicare Part B spent about $46 million on outpatient aquatic therapy eight years ago. That number has reputedly increased, and is expected to continue to rise as the Baby Boomer population ages.
KEYS TO WATER REHAB
The keys to instituting water rehabilitation therapy in a healthcare or sports setting are threefold: Have the best tools, hire the best people, and implement the best water rehab workout treatments. To institute aqua rehab options for patients recovering from an injury, the treatment location must have the right equipment to handle the job. Recommended items include:
- A warm-water therapy pool fitted with high-end technologies (e.g., underwater treadmill, secure handrails, variable-depth water, resistance jets, massage hose capabilities, video camera diagnostic capabilities.)
- Water therapy treatment tools and equipment such as aqua barbells, gloves, water fins, ankle weights and noodles.
- A mechanized lift to enable patients who are not fully mobile on land to easily and safely get into the pool. (A variable-depth pool can also serve this function.) Large safe stairs are necessary for pool entry, as ladders can be a hindrance to people with injuries. (Ladders can also be difficult, if not impossible, for some seniors to navigate.)
- An area dedicated to patients who need to change before and after treatment.
- Supplies to cover any healing wounds using waterproofing techniques, to guard patients against infections and keep the therapy pool free from unwanted bacteria.
Each of these items will provide both the patient and the physical or occupational therapist a wide range of possibilities in terms of water therapy exercises. Thus, any number of injured body parts can be securely manipulated, and the muscles, tendons and bones around those areas can also be put into motion, speeding up the overall healing process.
INJURY PAIN FROM AN ACCIDENT ?
Florida law requires you to see a licensed medical facility like Hess Spinal & Medical Centers within 14 days of your accident. Even if you’re not sure if the pain will be long lasting, schedule a free appointment to get checked out before the problem gets worse, and to be sure it’s covered by your insurance!