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What is a Hydrotherapy Pool?

A hydrotherapy pool, also sometimes called a therapy pool or warm water pool, is a special type of swimming pool designed for therapeutic use. Hydrotherapy pools utilize warm water immersion to provide a variety of health, rehabilitative, and relaxation benefits.

The Temperature

The water temperature is perhaps the defining feature of a hydrotherapy pool. While a traditional lap pool is usually kept between 78-82°F, a dedicated therapy pool is typically heated to 92-98°F. Some may even reach temperatures between 100-104°F. This warmer water facilitates muscle relaxation and eases the stiffness, achiness, and pain of various medical conditions and injuries. The increased temperature also enhances blood flow.

Specialized Design

In addition to warmer temperatures, hydrotherapy pools utilize a few specialized design elements. They are almost always built as small pools – often with maximum dimensions of just 12 ft long by 6 ft wide. Many also include amenities like underwater benches, therapy jets, treadmills, pool lifts, easy-access steps or ramps, and built-in handrails. The pools are engineered to create an accessible, soothing, aquatic environment conducive to therapeutic exercises, pain relief, and safe movement.

Rehabilitative & Therapeutic Uses

So what activities take place in a hydrotherapy pool? While the specifics will vary based on individual needs, typical programming revolves around water exercise, aquatic therapy, injury rehabilitation, and relaxation.

The buoyancy effect of water provides an ideal low-impact medium for performing movements and exercises that might otherwise be difficult, unsafe, or too painful on land. Those recovering from injuries, orthopedic surgeries, joint replacements, strokes, or neurological conditions often utilize hydrotherapy techniques to rebuild strength, balance, flexibility, and range of motion. Pool amenities like underwater treadmills are helpful for gait training.

The consistent resistance, hydrostatic pressure, and massage-like qualities of warm water also make hydrotherapy pools excellent environments for improving circulation, soothing muscle tension, loosening stiff joints, and reducing high blood pressure levels. And the relaxing nature of simply sitting or floating in a warm pool can aid mental health as well.

Common Medical Applications

So who utilizes hydrotherapy pools? While the therapeutic benefits can technically aid healthy individuals too, therapy pools are most commonly designed for serving special medical populations and rehabilitation patients. Some of the most common conditions and situations which derive benefit include:

  • Arthritis management – Water buoyancy minimizes joint strain and compression to improve mobility. Warm water also directly reduces arthritic pain and stiffness.
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation – The aquatic environment aids the recovery process from injuries, surgeries, fractures, sprains, overuse issues, and more.
  • Fibromyalgia symptom relief – Warm water therapy improves circulation and blood flow while soothing the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia.
  • Neurologic rehabilitation – Aquatic therapy builds strength & function for those with conditions like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and spinal cord injuries.
  • Cardiovascular disease rehabilitation – Gentle water exercises improve stamina and heart health.
  • Back pain treatment – Water’s buoyancy decompresses the spine to relieve pain while gentle aquatic exercise strengthens back muscles.
  • Chronic pain management – The natural analgesic effects of warm water provide non-pharmacological pain relief.

Pool Settings

Where are hydrotherapy pools located? Most are installed at dedicated therapy & rehab centers, sports medicine clinics, hospitals, and fitness facilities that offer specialized clinical programming. But some retirement homes, athletic training complexes, and higher-end gyms or spas may also maintain warm water therapy pools. Universities often have pools to support athletic training room rehabilitation activities too.

While hydrotherapy pools come in different forms, they center on a shared goal – utilizing warm water immersion to safely improve health, function, quality of life and wellbeing. The relaxing & rehabilitative properties bring profound therapeutic value for managing medical conditions, recovering from injury, enhancing fitness, and more.

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