Aquatic Physical Therapy

Is your child burnt out on traditional therapy models?  Does he or she need a jump start to reach the next gross motor milestone?  Do they have difficulty moving or strengthening against gravity?  Do they have poor respiratory muscle strength and get sick often?  Do they have sensory integration disorder in addition to gross motor delay?  Do they need partial or non-weight bearing strength training due to injury or surgery?Theraswim

If so, your child might be the perfect candidate for Aquatic Physical Therapy!

Aquatic physical therapy is a one on one physical therapy treatment that takes place in the water.  This form of PT is appropriate for children of all mobility and cognitive levels.  Children do not need to be able to swim, but swimming may be used therapeutically for those that can.  During each physical therapy session, the therapist uses FUN activities to improve strength, balance, gait, motor planning, and joint mobility.

Research shows that children who participate in aquatic physical therapy in addition to a good home exercise program or land-based physical therapy improve significantly over children in a land-based program only.  Research has also shown that aquatic physical therapy is an effective tool to improve strength, balance, cardiovascular endurance, vital capacity, functional mobility, and participation levels for children with disabilities. 

Some diagnoses that benefit from Aquatic Physical Therapy:

Cerebral Palsy

Down Syndrome

Developmental Delay

Developmental Coordination Disorder

Genetic Disorders

Muscular Dystrophy

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Chronic Pain

Juvenille Rheumatoid Arthritis

High or Low muscle tone

Pre or Post surgery


Osteogenesis Imperfecta

and many others!


Fragala-Pinkham MA, Dumas HM, Barlow CA, et al.  An aquatic physical therapy program at a pediatric rehabilitation hospital: a case series. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2009;21:68-78.

Fragala-Pinkham MA, Haley SM, O’Neil ME. Group aquatic aerobic exercise for children with disabilities.  Dev Med Child Neurol. 2008;50:822-827.

Hillier S, McIntyre A, Plummer L.  Aquatic physical therapy for children with developmental coordination disorder: a pilot randomized control trial. Phys Occup Ther in Pediatr. 2010;30:111-124.

Hutzler Y, Chacham A, Bergman U, et al. Effects of a movement and swimming program on vital capacity and water orientation skills of children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol. 1998;40:176-181.

Thorpe DE, Reilly MA, Case LE.  The effects of an aquatic resistive exercise program on leg strength, balance, energy expenditure, functional mobility and self-perception in children and young adults with cerebral palsy. Aquatic Physical Therapy. 2005;13:21-34

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