Seton Southwest Adds Aqua Therapy to Services September 11, 2009

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Southwest Austin has received a major advancement in the area of adult rehabilitation and sports medicine. Located in the new Medical Office Building Health Plaza II, on the grounds of Seton Southwest Hospital, not one but two state-of-the-art aquatic therapy pools have been installed. Therapists and doctors can now conduct therapies for patients in a near gravity-free environment.

The two new pools utilize the Hydroworx system with underwater treadmills and video analysis. Forward and side cameras allow the therapist or doctor to see exactly how the patient is performing. Various forms of resistive training devices are available as well as assistive devices. Patients lacking flexibility or incapable of walking down steps can enter the pool on the treadmill and be lowered down into the pool. Once in position, the integrated variable speed treadmill can be adjusted to smoothly increase in speed from 0 to 7.5 mph in safe .2 mph increments. Directional resistance jets provide additional resistance. A DVD can record a session for therapists to send to doctors later to get further analysis done.

Pool Contributes to Faster Recovery

Aqua therapy in a pool with extra equipment such as the SSW pools contribute to faster recovery for several reasons:

  • Water provides a near zero gravity with support for the body. With the neck almost in the water, a person only has to support 10% of your their body weight.
  • An increased range of motion can take place in the pool without hurting joints or re-injury.
  • The workout gets sinovial fluid back into the joint which promotes healing.
  • Water pressure helps keep down the swelling that often accompanies injury.

A Runner Gets Running Again

For John Moore, a 69 year old Air Force veteran and regular runner, the aqua therapy pool was doing it's job. On the day visited the facility, John was running on the underwater treadmill at various speeds with his physical therapist Josh Espinoza monitoring his progress. John came to Seton with a pinched nerve in his back which had sidelined him and kept him from running on his favorite trail, Lady Bird Lake. "I've been running since 1974. Usually three miles, two or three times per week," said John. "Once in a while I'd do a 10K like the Santa Cruz Wharf to Wharf but all that changed with the pinched nerve. I've been away from running for 18 months."

"Those that experience chronic pain from joint deterioration due to age can be placed in the near gravity-free environment which removes the pressure on the joints," said Josh Espinoza, MSPT, CSCS. "Normal running on a land treadmill will place two to six times a person's weight on their joints. The variance depends on if the person is going downhill or how fast they're moving. The aqua therapy can apply different stages of weight bearing status depending on the patient's tolerance and ability to perform on the treadmill. This is done by placing the person at various depths of the pool. The pool will remove 90% of their body-weight if they're lowered enough so the water is up to their neck. The amount is 75% at the chest level and 50% at the waist."

Josh manually changes the speed of the treadmill as he watches John's feet on the video camera and has John side step for a couple of minutes. Cameras capture from the front and side how John's feet strike the treadmill. This is John's second visit and it's already an improvement. The pinched nerve created too much stress on his spine which then caused pressure to the nerve. "We started John on land working on his core," explained Josh. "Core activated acts like corsette to prevent shearing of the disks and joints."

As we age, our spinal discs break down, or degenerate, which may result in degenerative disc disease in some people. These age-related changes include:

  • The loss of fluid in your discs. This reduces the ability of the discs to act as shock absorbers and makes them less flexible. Loss of fluid also makes the disc thinner and narrows the distance between the vertebrae.
  • Tiny tears or cracks in the outer layer (annulus or capsule) of the disc. The jellylike material inside the disc (nucleus) may be forced out through the tears or cracks in the capsule, which causes the disc to bulge, break open (rupture), or break into fragments.

Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease but a term used to describe the normal changes in your spinal discs as you age. Spinal discs are soft, compressible discs that separate the interlocking bones ( vertebrae) that make up the spine. The discs act as shock absorbers for the spine, allowing it to flex, bend, and twist. Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine, but it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region). Learn more about your spine in the encyclopedia.

Josh Espinoza, MSPT, CSCS
Physical Therapist

Seton Southwest Hospital
7900 FM 1826, Suite 102
Austin, Texas 78737

(512) 324-9070

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