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Using the Power of Water for Knee Rehabilitation

2013 April 4

Rehabbing injuries following a surgery can be a challenge for many reasons and for both the patient and therapist. Therapists want nothing more than to help their patients heal and get healthy, but patients often experience pain and discomfort on a daily basis. The surgical incision area is very sore, the muscles surrounding the area have become weak and if the surgery was to repair a torn ligament or tendon, the tendons are very tight and do not want to be pushed to move. Despite a lot of reasons to wait to begin rehabilitation, it is important to begin a therapy program following surgery to increase range of motion and strengthen the injured area as soon as possible.

Meghan rehabbing her knee in the HydroWorx pool

Meghan rehabbing her knee in the HydroWorx pool

Below is a specific case study, one that is currently in progress (stay tuned for part two), about a young athlete recovering from a total knee reconstruction surgery. The patient, Meghan, suffered a severe knee injury while playing soccer where she tore her ACL, MCL, PCL and her medial meniscus. Needless to say, this was quite a unique and severe injury that required special attention. Meghan, a Vermont native, received surgery in Colorado from a specialist due to the complexity of the tears in her knee.

Following the surgery, Meghan was referred to Essex Aquatic Rehab Center where she began her aquatic therapy outpatient rehab program with owner and head PT, Veronica Paquette. When Meghan first started at Essex, she had minimal range of motion. She was lacking 10 degrees of full extension and her knee flexion was only at about 90 degrees. After just one week in the warm water therapy pool, Meghan improved to minus 5 degrees and 100 degrees of knee flexion. Additionally, because of the progress Meghan made in the pool during her first week, she no longer needed her crutches when walking on land! She also discusses in the video that the level of discomfort is minimal to none when moving her knee underwater, compared to the pain she experienced on land.

Pool Protocol

The exciting thing is that this is a true time progression case study, which means that this rehabilitation is still in progress and we will all be able to see more of Meghan’s progress in a few weeks. Paquette (PT) demonstrates numerous exercises and activities she had Meghan do in the pool for the first three weeks of her therapy program. In just three weeks you will see that Meghan has made a lot of progress. Paquette incorporates different types of stretches, strengthening exercises and walking and jogging emphasizing the importance of strengthening her whole body rather than solely focusing on her knee. It is important to keep her entire body strong to enhance recovery and reduce the risk of re-injury.

In the video Veronica walks through a 3 week rehabilitation protocol with numerous exercises. Primarily she focuses on:

  1. Stretching
  2. Core Stabilization
  3. Active Motion, including cardiovascular exercises and walking/jogging on the underwater treadmill

Be sure to watch the video demonstrating a total knee rehabilitation protocol, where Veronica, the head PT discusses the exercises in detail. It is amazing what the power of water is capable of doing!

The HydroWorx Advantage

For Veronica, a HydroWorx pool is an essential ally for rehabbing patients with severe knee injuries like Meghan. With a HydroWorx pool, a physical therapist can take clients through a complete recovery program, starting slow and adding exercises to strengthen joints as they recover. A HydroWorx therapy pool features adjustable resistance therapy jets to gradually increase the intensity of the workout, building balance, range of motion and strength as rehab progresses. The underwater treadmill, a standard feature on all HydroWorx products, is another important tool for knee surgery patients.

It’s a long road to recovery after a knee surgery like Meghan’s, but with support from dedicated PT professionals such as Veronica  and from water therapy, a successful rehab can be pain-free and fun.

To learn more about ACL rehabilitation using aquatic therapy, download our “ACL Recovery” tip sheet here>>










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