– by Maahir Harquw, M.D. • Celebration Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Institute • www.celebrationorthopaedics.com • www.floridahospital.com –
It is estimated that four out of five people of all ages will contend with low back pain. It can flare up during everyday activities or seemingly out of the blue. If not addressed, it can limit one’s ability to travel, participate in recreational activities, or spend time with family. Quite understandably, patients — even those who have only experienced mild low back pain — often express worry when speaking with physicians about their back pain. The good news is the majority of patients with low back pain will not need surgery.
One of the simpler, more affordable therapeutic options is aquatherapy, or aquatic therapy. It can be an important first step toward breaking out of the cycle of pain and deconditioning that comes from the frustration and depletion of energy that can accompany the healing of a back injury. Aquatherapy is a range of exercises or treatments that are done in a pool. After doing a few sessions with a licensed therapist, most patients can do it on their own or with friends. Resources and information about various aquatherapy techniques are easily accessible online. In most cases, no specific equipment is needed other than a pool.
For back pain prevention or treatment, aquatherapy is the perfect exercise. The water in the pool provides buoyancy, taking stress and weight off of the spine and other joints. Therapeutic benefits have been shown in various patient populations, including pregnant women. Those with balance problems will find the buoyancy allows them to exercise without the fear of falling. The water also provides resistance that can recondition and strengthen arms and legs. Because aquatherapy is low-impact, it is great for patients with arthritic hips and knees. It is also an excellent cardiovascular exercise and can promote weight loss. Most importantly, patients find aquatherapy both therapeutic and enjoyable.
Aquatherapy will help the vast majority of people with low back pain. Even if it does not provide complete relief, it is an important step toward recovery. Injections or even surgery can have excellent results, but they should only be offered when a patient has failed to achieve adequate pain relief from a comprehensive, nonoperative