Hydrotherapy allows active muscle contraction with minimal weight bearing on joints and bones. It can be performed in whirlpools, pools, bathtubs, lakes, streams, and underwater treadmills. Aquatic exercise allows patients with poor standing balance or weakness to stand without fear of falling. Patients that are unable to bear weight on land can walk with the support of the water. Hydrotherapy also provides cardiovascular exercise.
The underwater treadmill provides a unique exercise opportunity because the water level can be adjusted to control the amount of weight a patient must support on their own. The increased resistance of walking in water promotes an increased heart rate and oxygen consumption compared to exercising on land. The underwater treadmill is a great exercise for post op orthopedic cases, arthritic animals, and a variety of neurologic diseases (both surgical and non-surgical cases). Swimming can provide good range of motion and general exercise but it can’t provide the gait patterning and weight bearing training that an underwater treadmill can.