Aquatic PT

Aquatic physical therapy is physical therapy that is provided in a pool setting.  You may also hear aquatic physical therapy called aquatic PT, pool therapy, aquatic rehabilitation, or water therapy.  Aquatic physical therapy can be an excellent complement to traditional land-based services for people of all fitness levels.  For the high-level athlete rehabilitating from an injury, aquatic physical therapy can help reduce recovery time and improve aerobic capacity, strength, and endurance to take their performance to the next level.  For the less active client or person at risk for falls who is wanting to improve balance and build strength to be able to walk without a walker or climb a flight of stairs, physical therapy in the aquatic environment can assist the client in reaching those goals. 

What is it about the aquatic environment specifically that is helpful?

  • Buoyancy is the force of water that acts in the opposite direction of gravity and enables reduced weightbearing and less stress on joints, decreases blood pooling, and increases blood flow into joint spaces.
  • Benefits of the hydrostatic pressure of water, which increases in proportion to the depth of water, include reduced pain, reduction in swelling/edema, improved venous return, and improved cardiac output and circulation.
  • The resistance of the water challenges strength and coordination and improves core stability and posture.
  • The turbulence of water challenges balance and coordination.
  • The water can be relatively safe for someone at risk for falls as movement in water is slower and allows more reaction time.


  • How is aquatic physical therapy different from aquatic exercise or a water aerobics class? Aquatic physical therapy is one-on-one with a physical therapist who has evaluated your mobility and strength on land and who is providing specific aquatic exercises that will ultimately help you meet your performance goals on land.  Aquatic physical therapy is covered by most insurances.  An aquatic exercise class does not need to be supervised by a trained professional, typically takes place in a group setting, and is not covered by insurance. 
  • Do I have to be able to swim to participate in aquatic physical therapy?   Many patients who do not know how to swim are able to safely and successfully participate in aquatic therapy.  Exercises can be performed in a depth of water in which you can still stand and hold onto the wall or handrail as needed.  Fear of water is a bigger factor than inability to swim.  If you have a fear of water, you will want to discuss with your physical therapist if aquatic physical therapy is right for you.
  • Are there any conditions that would limit my ability to participate in aquatic physical therapy? Please discuss with your therapist if you have any special medical concerns such as open wounds, seizure disorder, skin infections, renal or heart failure, incontinence, or illness.  These concerns are addressed on a case-by-case basis and your therapist can help determine if you will be able to participate in aquatic physical therapy.  If you have a history of heart problems, you will need to have physician clearance to participate in aquatic physical therapy.