Like so many people I know, I suffer from chronic pain, and it seems to get worse as I get older. As a writer, I sit a lot and get very little activity. Even when I go home, I rarely feel like doing much of anything. As a result, I guess I’ve become the definition of a couch potato.
Physical therapy at Sun Towers Outpatient Rehabilitation has been quite helpful over the years, but I’ve never been able to sustain the will, motivation or self-confidence to keep exercising on my own – until recently.
The irony is that it’s my inactivity that’s worsened my pain. As they say in therapy, “motion is lotion.” Little did I know those three words would soon become my daily mantra.
When I returned to physical therapy several months ago, I was suffering from an overall lack of mobility and range of motion, stiffness, swollen knees, poor flexibility and instability. Most of my movements were painful, and I needed to lose weight.
My PTA, Natalia Waters, whose guidance and expertise has made such a difference for me, encouraged me to try aquatic therapy. She said I’d be able to tolerate exercise better in the pool and subsequently do things I couldn’t even consider on land. Buoyancy in water would take pressure off my joints and reduce pain, she said.
Boy, she was right! Rehab in the pool is a much gentler, yet highly effective alternative to land-based physical therapy.
I absolutely love being in the water, working one-on-one with Natalia in the therapeutic environment of a pool and facing challenges I thought were no longer possible. I’m working hard on my goals and actually having fun!
My pain levels have decreased, I’m taking less medication, sleeping better and my gait and range of motion are improving. Although I still resemble a duck when I walk at times, I’m relying less on the use of a cane.
What’s more, I actually feel motivated and want to move. I’m now meeting friends at the Community Association’s walking pool, and I just resumed my Noom program to lose weight.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying my pain issues have vanished. I still need to work on balance, strengthen my leg muscles and especially my core. But what I do feel is hope that I can keep improving, and I haven’t felt that in a very long time.
Cathy Snell, another patient who opted for aquatic therapy, has also found relief in the water. An accident involving a car left her severely injured on the entire left side of her body, requiring that she have both occupational and physical therapy.
She said the pool’s warm water and the exercises she’s learned from COTA Jennipher Lenoir Robbins and PTA Taryn Rzepkowski have improved both her pain level and range of motion.
Robbins said aquatic therapy works because of the pool’s gravity-induced environment, and the hydrostatic pressure of the water wraps a patient like a warm blanket, “hugging” them to help quiet down the body’s pain receptors. This releases tension, and the patient relaxes.
Compressive forces on land are relieved in the water to allow more types of movement and reduce swelling. Even deep stretching is facilitated more in the water.
Aquatic therapy is particularly effective pre- and post-surgery for all types of disabling conditions, including total knee replacement and breast reconstruction.
“After my breast reconstructive surgery, I hadn’t realized how much range of motion I had lost before I started aquatherapy,” said Vicki Kosky, Sun Towers/Sun Terrace director of rehabilitation. “I couldn’t tolerate range of motion on land, but the pool relaxed me. I’ve regained mobility for basic activities, and my surgeon was very pleased with the results in advance of my scheduled surgery.”
I hope sharing all of this will motivate anyone who’s suffering from pain or mobility issues to consider following suit. Water therapy isn’t a panacea, but it does change your outlook. I know because it has changed mine.
Sun Towers Retirement Community is the only place in southern Hillsborough County that offers therapeutic aquatic therapy for both inpatients and outpatients. All you need is a prescription from your doctor for aquatic therapy, and then you can make an appointment for an evaluation by calling Terry Erickson at 813-331-3035.
PS, I don’t get a commission from Sun Towers, people. My only affiliation is as a patient.
Lois Kindle is a freelance writer and columnist for The Observer News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.