According to statistics from the National Osteoporosis Association, an estimated 10 million Americans are living with Osteoporosis and another 34 million are at risk.
The human bone is made up of these major components: collagen, calcium-phosphate mineral complexes, and living bone cells.
By the age of 25, we have the greatest amount of bone and there is more balance between bone loss and bone growth. After the age of 25, the gap begins to grow between bone loss versus bone growth. Osteoporosis can be defined when you lose too much bone, do not make enough bone, or both. Aquatic therapy is a safe way to provide physical rehabilitation services without placing the patient at risk.
There are many elements of the aquatic environment, which can help patients achieve their goals, including temperature control. There are several properties that are unique to water, hydrostatic pressure, buoyancy, viscosity, and resistance.
Buoyancy is the upward thrust that occurs on a submerged body. The depth of the water can be adjusted, as well as the amount of buoyancy as the patient progresses.
Hydrostatic pressure provides a safe, supportive, and forgiving environment while improving peripheral edema, increases cardiovascular response, balance, and proprioceptive training.
Viscosity can be used to provide resistance, or to facilitate movement depending on direction and timing of movement. The properties of water provide support to the body in a way that is safe for osteoporosis patients. By decreasing the force that is transmitted through the joints by using buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure, there will be a decrease in the sense of body weight when performing mobility tasks. Viscosity enables patients to perform resistive activities to increase muscle use. It gives the benefit of increased bone density with decreased joint stress and decreased risk of a fracture. Another benefit of aquatic therapy is the ability to control the temperature. Maintaining a temperature between 90 and 94 degrees will help the patient’s muscles to relax. Allowing them to maximize the benefits of their therapy.
The aquatic environment provides a decreased fall risk, which results from the resistance to movement provided by the combination of viscosity and buoyancy. When a person experiences a loss of balance on land, gravity acts quickly and provides forces that accelerate falling. Which in turn increase the risk of injury to the patient.
When in the water, these forces are altered, giving the patient more time to react to a loss of balance and recover independently or with the assistance of a therapist.
The pool is a great place to work on range of motion, strength limitations and mobility in osteoporosis patients. It is a safe environment allowing patients to increase their strength and improve their mobility with a decreased risk of injury.
Sally Bachman, PTA