Is Aquatic PT Any Good? 5 Ways Aquatic PT Helps Improve Movement and Healing.

 Are you ready to take your physical therapy to the next level? Have you recently completed a traditional physical therapy program and want a little more support to get back on your feet? Aquatic physical therapy (PT) may be what you need!

 Aquatic PT, also referred to as pool therapy or aquatic rehabilitation, is physical therapy done in the water. Utilizing the benefits of water, patients can experience the perks of physical therapy that may otherwise not be possible. Aquatic physical therapy sessions are one-on-one sessions led by a certified aquatic therapist. They help promote healing, movement, and overall wellness.

 The goal of aquatic PT is that our patients experience improved movement and healing with less pain and difficulty. Because the water unloads the body of some physical restraints, aquatic PT can be beneficial for all ages and all fitness levels. Bonus, you don’t even need to know how to swim to take advantage of the Optimal Sports PT aquatic services! 

5 Benefits of Aquatic Physical Therapy

For some patients, improving mobility and healing can be challenging in a typical physical therapy setting. But, the water can help. Aquatic therapy can help patients improve mobility and healing because the water relaxes the body, improves blood flow, and eases pain and tension. There are so many benefits of aquatic PT. Here are 5 common benefits that patients can experience when participating in aquatic PT.

Enhanced Mobility and Strength

Water provides patients with a sense of weightlessness or buoyancy that reduces the stress felt on painful joints during traditional weight-bearing activities. Buoyancy reduces the effect of gravity allowing affected joints to float. Making it easier and less painful to experience full joint mobility. Water also provides natural resistance. Replacing traditional weight-being activities to help build muscle strength.

Improved Posture, Gait, and Movement

Water provides the support and assistance to safely and effectively encourage movement in the body. Research has even indicated that aquatic PT has a significant impact on improving walking speed, stride length, and overall stance. These gait changes support the improvement of posture and movement in the body. Our aquatic therapist will support you in exercises that promote proper posture, improve your gait, and increase movement in your body. All in a low-impact, pain-free setting. 

Improved Flexibility, Balance, and Coordination

Water provides consistent pressure on the body causing us to respond to the movement happening around us. This movement and resistance help improve our reaction times, build sensory awareness, and strengthen our muscles. Water also helps provide a sense of security and support that can help ease the fear of falling. All this helps to improve our balance and coordination. Water also helps to relax our muscles helping to improve flexibility. 

Decreased Pain

The buoyancy of the water eases joint stress. Making it easier and less painful to perform many exercises. The combination of warm water and decreased stress on painful joints can help to relax the body and improve blood flow to injured areas of the body. While submerged in water, many exercises that otherwise seemed impossible are now possible. 

Added Aerobic Capacity and Endurance Conditioning 

Exercising in the water can help improve aerobic capacity and endurance. Even when it may be too early or too difficult to hit the gym. Also, sports-specific activity can begin in the water earlier in the rehabilitation process than it can on land. Activities such as water jogging or weight training can challenge your core, improve your balance, and produce cardiovascular results. All with less impact on your joints.

Injuries and Conditions That Benefit From Aquatic Physical Therapy

Our aquatic physical therapist evaluates each patient’s condition and customizes a water PT program that meets your specific needs. This may include improved strength, flexibility, endurance, or balance. All are possible with aquatic physical therapy. 

 We customize our aquatic PT exercises to account for age-related or physical limitations. This makes it safe and effective for both adults and children. For children, aquatic PT can help to improve motor skills, coordination, and balance in children with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental delays. At this time, the Optimal Sports PT aquatic physical therapists will be seeing adults only. 

Our aquatic therapist, Dr. Margaret Koenig, DPT uses aquatic PT to treat several injuries or conditions including:

Low Back Pain

Aquatic PT may be one of the most useful ways to relieve low back pain from disc issues, sprains, or strains. The water is a great place to reduce stress on the spine, improve mobility, and decrease pain all with no risk of falling. The pool is also a great place to address your core strength. 

Lower Extremity Injuries

Water provides patients with buoyancy helping to reduce stress and discomfort on injuries. Allowing patients who have experienced a lower extremity injury (including low back, hip, knee, ankle, or foot) to perform exercises more easily in the water. 

Post-Surgical Conditions

Aquatic PT is a reliable way to help patients after a surgical procedure avoids issues like muscular atrophy. And get patients up and moving more comfortably. Post-surgical aquatic PT is ideal for patients who have had back surgeries, total joint replacements, or hip/knee/ankle surgeries.

Injured Runners

For injured runners, healing from a stress or overuse injury requires decreased impact on the affected joint. Aquatic PT is a low-impact activity that can still provide a great cardiovascular workout. Allowing you to get back to running faster.

Chronic Pain Conditions

Aquatic PT allows patients suffering from chronic pain to retrain their muscles and joints. The water provides buoyancy, natural pain relief, and adequate exercise that they may otherwise not be able to achieve. 


Aquatic PT is very effective for patients with arthritis including both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis conditions. The water allows patients with arthritis to move arthritic joints in ways that may otherwise be painful. Helping to improve the strength and flexibility of the joints leads to improved function.

Movement Disorders

Exercise allows people with movement disorders including Parkinson’s disease or other spinal cord injuries to feel stronger and more in control. Aquatic PT can help to improve balance, coordination, and motor skills for patients with movement disorders. 

Autoimmune Disorders

Patients with Fibromyalgia and other autoimmune disorders can benefit from the unloading feeling found in the buoyancy of the water. Also, aquatic PT can help patients with autoimmune disorders tone and tighten muscles that experience disease-related deterioration. 

Are there any conditions that would limit me from participating in aquatic physical therapy?

Open wounds, seizure disorders, renal or heart failure, skin infections, incontinence, or other illnesses can limit you from participating in aquatic PT. We recommend discussing any special medical concerns you may have with our aquatic therapist. This allows us to address any concerns you may have and ensure that participation is safe and that you get the most out of your aquatic PT appointment. 

Interested in trying aquatic physical therapy?

Our aquatic PT services will take place at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Helena.

DoubleTree by Hilton

22 N Last Chance Gulch

Helena, MT 59601

Click here to read more information about aquatic PT or to see if aquatic PT might be a good fit for you, contact the Optimal Sports PT main office at 406-502-1782. Our team of physical therapists and support staff can help determine if aquatic PT is right for you and verify your insurance benefits.