Benefits of Aquatic Physical Therapy

Aquatic physical therapy involves performing exercises and activities in a pool. Aquatic physical therapy provides several benefits for people with conditions such as arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, neurological disorders, sports injuries, and more. Let’s DIVE IN and explore the advantages of aquatic physical therapy.

Reduced Weight Bearing

One of the main benefits of aquatic physical therapy is that it reduces the impact and stress on the joints and muscles due to the buoyancy of water. When submerged, you feel lighter and more supported, which allows you to move more easily and comfortably. Your therapist can use different depths of water to change how much load you experience. For example, when the water is up to your neck, you only bear about 10% of your body weight. This can be especially helpful for people who have difficulty walking, standing, or exercising on land due to pain, stiffness, or weakness.

Built-In Resistance

Another benefit of aquatic physical therapy is that water provides natural resistance. Water resistance can be adjusted by changing the speed, direction, or surface area of the movement. Use of equipment such as hand webs, water weights, and kickboards can make movements more challenging. Resistance training helps increase muscle strength and endurance, as well as improve blood circulation and heart health.


A third benefit of aquatic therapy is the hydrostatic pressure. This is the force that water exerts on an object that increases with depth. The pressure of the water helps reduce swelling in joints or tissues. The pressure of the water also gives your brain more input about the position of your body and limbs. This helps improve proprioception, or the sense of where your body parts are in space. Improving proprioception can help enhance balance, coordination, and stability.


A final benefit of aquatic physical therapy is taking advantage of the warmth of the water, which can help relax the muscles and relieve pain. Warm water stimulates nerve endings in your skin, which can help block pain signals. It also dilates the blood vessels, which can increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to the injured or affected areas. Additionally, warm water has a calming effect on the mind and body, which can reduce pain and anxiety.

Aquatic PT can reduce the stress on the joints, provide resistance and hydrostatic pressure, and reduce pain while improving strength, endurance, proprioception, and function. If you are interested in starting aquatic physical therapy, Northern Rehab has two physical therapists that provide aquatic physical therapy in two locations. Rob Larkins provides aquatic PT in the DeKalb/Sycamore area at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA and Janet Truckenbrod Sarver provides aquatic PT in Rochelle at the REC Center. Membership is not required. Steps inside the pool allow for easy entry and exit, and a lift chair is available. Swimming is not required to participate in aquatic physical therapy.  Please call us at 815.756.8524 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Learn more about Northern Rehab’s Aquatic Physical Therapy