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October is National Physical Therapy Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of physical therapy. 

Physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants work with patients of all ages to prevent or treat limitations in movement or function that impact daily life. PTs are trained to help patients improve mobility, manage pain, recover from injury and play a role in managing many other health conditions.

Together with other members of the health care team, PTs help their clients manage chronic pain through nonpharmacological methods. At Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, PTs specialize in orthopedic therapy, geriatric rehabilitation, pelvic-floor conditions, balance difficulties, vestibular disorders, chronic pain, lymphedema therapy, neurologic conditions, wound care and more.

PTs use a variety of techniques, including manual therapy and exercise, which take place in our clinic and may include individualized home programs specifically targeted to conditions and goals.

The HRRMC Rehab Department’s new space in the Outpatient Pavilion includes a therapy gym, private treatment rooms, a walking track and a new HydroWorx aquatic therapy pool.

HRRMC’s therapy pool offers unrestricted accessibility for all individuals. The floor can be raised or lowered to create a specific water depth, ranging from zero to 6 feet, which accommodates each patient’s needs. Entrance to the pool is gained by walking or wheeling out onto the floor and being lowered to a specific depth. The floor functions as a treadmill with a low-impact surface and excellent traction. It’s a suitable option for all therapeutic and sports performance needs, with speed capabilities ranging from 0.2 to 8.5 mph.

Five high-definition cameras are in place allowing for detailed gait analysis, equipping our therapists with valuable footage to help people move most efficiently.

High-powered jets create a simulated current useful for resistance, balance training, aquatic treadmill running, deep water running or continuous swimming. A typical session may include these activities, as well as range of motion, strengthening and/or plyometric exercises.

Aquatic therapy has become increasingly popular since the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1924, and research supporting its use in clinical rehabilitation programs has continued to grow.

Aquatic therapy offers unique benefits compared to on-land therapy including a safe, low-impact, compressive and temperature-controlled environment. The buoyancy that results from water immersion combats the effects of gravity, significantly reducing pain and joint impact that people can experience with weight-bearing exercises such as walking and running.

This allows individuals with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis to off-load painful joints and more effectively participate in strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness programs.

Those with recent fractures or orthopedic surgeries leaving them with weight-bearing restrictions can return to early strengthening and walking sooner. In addition, it allows for the athlete to be able to maintain cardiovascular fitness through aquatic treadmill running while recovering from injury.

Water immersion to a depth of 4 feet exerts an external hydrostatic pressure of approximately 88.9mm Hg, exceeding that of compression garments, which can have powerful implications for treatment of patients with mild to moderate congestive heart failure, hypertension, COPD and lymphedema when utilized appropriately. It also produces an effective environment for respiratory muscle strengthening, beneficial for individuals with spinal cord injury or muscular dystrophy.

The pool is typically maintained at a temperature of approximately 88-96 degrees Fahrenheit but can be adjusted to suit each individual’s specific needs. At this temperature, blood flow to active muscles is increased by more than 200 percent, making oxygen more available for these tissues. Furthermore, water at this temperature may be used to elicit relaxation and increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which can significantly reduce pain for those with chronic pain or fibromyalgia.

In addition to the above mentioned conditions, aquatic therapy and treatment has also been effective for individuals with symptoms and disorders that include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy, spinal surgery, compression fractures and stress fractures.

For more information about the benefits of rehab, and aquatic therapy in particular, visit hrrmc.com or call 719-530-2040.

Jared Knappe, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center.

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