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Make a SPLASH into Recovery

Spring is around the corner! With it comes the opportunity to participate in all of the exciting activities the season affords. Unfortunately, many individuals are unable to take full advantage of this warm weather due to chronic pain or other injuries that causes difficulty with movement and activity.  Being unable to engage in hobbies or activities you are accustomed to can lead to a decreased quality of life.

Thankfully, it is not too late to get back to performing the activities you, or someone you know, once loved. Aquatic Physical Therapy can aid in improving movement, decreasing pain, and restoring function for all daily activities. In this article, we will discuss how there is no better time to dip your toe in and try aquatic therapy at BREAKTHRU.

  • What is Aquatic Physical Therapy? 

Many individuals feel as if they have exhausted all options including physical therapy and must live with their pain.  This is simply not true. Aquatic physical therapy is distinctly different from land based physical therapy. In the water, buoyant forces push the body upwards, effectively causing you to “weigh” less. This results in less impact during activity and a decreased load on the joints, muscles, and bones.  Movement is easier and less painful than on land, and patients are able to perform exercises not possible out of the pool. Additionally, our pools have multiple massaging jets and are kept at a warm 90°F which provides relief to tight muscles, spasms, as well as decreasing pain.  

At BREAKTHRU, exercise programs are constructed individually for each patient to ensure the highest levels of success. The exercise program will be challenging, but manageable for you, and will work specifically to increase your endurance, strength, and flexibility. Most exercises that are performed on land can also be performed in the pool. Our aquatics facility has a plethora of water based exercise equipment including use of dumb bells and flotation devices.

Most notably, we uniquely offer an underwater treadmill that can be remotely controlled to reach the perfect, most comfortable speed for you. The treadmill allows individuals to walk, jog, or run in the water where they “weigh less.” Additionally, we also have the ability to provide gentle resistance through water based currents in the pool.  

At BREAKTHRU, our goal is to provide the highest quality care to patient’s during their path to recovery and fitness. To us, this means one-on-one care with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is the utmost importance.  

You will be scheduled with the same PT at every visit which will allow him or her to get to know you and your health condition personally. The entire staff will make sure you are performing exercises correctly with proper form at the right dosage (reps, sets, and durations), as well as taking recommended breaks throughout.  

  • How can I get started?

FREE Screen: If you are unsure if aquatic therapy is right for you, it all starts with your FREE consultation with a Doctor of Physical Therapy. You can set up this FREE meeting at our Mt. Laurel location (Near the Whole Foods and LA Fitness) by calling (856) 722-1044 OR our Medford Fitness location by calling (609) 451-6582

Initial Evaluation: If you or someone you know could benefit from decreasing pain and moving better, you can see a Doctor of Physical Therapy by scheduling an initial evaluation. At the evaluation, your PT will take a detailed history of your condition by asking questions and listening to your story. He or she will then take a look at what impairments you may have (strength, flexibility, pain, motor control).  The process typically takes between 30-45 minute.  You will then meet the friendly staff, be given a tour of the facility, and scheduled for the first session.  

First session: will consist of becoming familiar with the pool, getting to know your physical therapist, and beginning your exercise program. A typical treatment session is around 1 hour in length and allows time for warm up on our underwater treadmill or massaging jets, as well as your exercise program and a cool-down.  At following sessions, your exercise program will be progressed appropriately in accordance with your plan of care and include more exercises that will benefit you.  

  • Who can benefit from skilled aquatic physical therapy?

Arthritis:Arthritis of the hip and knee are one of the most common diagnoses seen for aquatic therapy at BREAKTHRU.  Our patients are able to walk for longer distances on the underwater treadmill without pain. Additionally, physical therapy will strengthen the muscles of the lower leg, thigh, and glutes in order to decrease pain and improve strength. This will help take some of the stress off of your arthritic joint by allowing the muscles to stabilize and absorb force. Osteoarthritis is the most common form seen at our clinic, however water based therapy will improve function in RA as well.

Low Back Pain: Low back pain is the most common diagnosis seen in physical therapy and can cause patient’s difficulty in walking, bending, and lifting items. Additionally, some low back pain may even be felt in the legs and feet.  In the pool, the water can relax the low back muscles and the jets can help de-sensitize an area by providing gentle stimulus to the nerves.  Stretching can be performed in the pool. Additionally, we will work to strengthen the core in the water which will act as a “natural back brace” to strengthen your spine’s support.



Post Joint Replacement: A large amount of evidence exists through research studies supporting using pool based therapy following total knee arthroplasty (TKA) or total hip arthroplasty (THA). These patients can benefit from water based therapy when cleared by a surgeon. Walking can be performed for longer periods of time with less rests. Most exercises can be performed with decreased pain in the pool, which can provide relief to patient’s looking to get moving sooner. These patients will eventually progressed to land based exercises.

Sports related surgeries:  Athletes who suffer ACL, PCL, or Meniscal injuries requiring surgery are often braced for several weeks. Afterwards, they typically follow a protocol in place by a physician in order to return them to sport safely. Many protocols recommend water based jogging in order to begin loading the joint before beginning these activities on land, however most physical therapy centers do not have access to pools. At BREAKTHRU, we can begin jogging activities early in the pool, which allows the athlete to return to running and sport sooner. Additionally, jogging in the pool will keep the athlete at a high level of conditioning during their recovery.


General Deconditioning: The pool is a great way to begin physical therapy for individuals who lack strength or endurance in their legs or core.  These individuals may report getting tired with walking after a short distance, having difficulty going up or down stairs, or feel “weak” in the legs. Exercises can be initiated in the pool and progressed to improve strength. Water-safe weights can be incorporated into programs to challenge the patient. Once the patient has gained sufficient strength, physical therapy can begin on land. This is a great “stepping stone” to begin land-based physical therapy.

References:Waller B, Ogonowska-Slodownik A, Vitor M, et al. Effect of Therapeutic Aquatic Exercise on Symptoms and Function Associated With Lower Limb Osteoarthritis: Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Physical Therapy. 2014;94(10):1383-1395. doi:10.2522/ptj.20130417.
Barker A, Talevski J, Morello R, Brand C, Rahmann A, Urquhart D. Effectiveness of aquatic exercise for musculoskeletal conditions: a meta-analysis. Physiotherapy. 2015;101. doi:10.1016/j.physio.2015.03.250.
Prins J, Cutner D. Aquatic Therapy In The Rehabilitation Of Athletic Injuries. Clinics in Sports Medicine. 1999;18(2):447-461. doi:10.1016/s0278-5919(05)70158-7.
Schonewill A, Rogers K, Spear A, Weinberg D, Pitt R. Combined Effects of Aquatic and Land-Based Rehabilitation in Female Soccer Players Post ACL Reconstruction: An Overview of Current Evidence. Journal of Physical Therapy and Health Promotion. 2015;3(2):11-19. doi:10.18005/pthp0302001.
Villalta EM, Peiris CL. Early Aquatic Physical Therapy Improves Function and Does Not Increase Risk of Wound-Related Adverse Events for Adults After Orthopedic Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2013;94(1):138-148. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2012.07.020.