Performing exercise in the water is beneficial for several reasons:

  • The thermal properties of water are therapeutic because it helps increase circulation.
  • The hydrostatic pressure of the water compresses the tissues causing decreased swelling, and improved lymphatic return.
  • The buoyancy of the water helps to “un weight” the body and facilitate movement, with less stress on musculoskeletal system.
  • Drag is a property of water that creates resistance to movement, facilitating strengthening of the musculoskeletal system.


A variety of patients with musculoskeletal conditions benefit from aquatic rehabilitation:

  • Patients with arthritis benefit from the being able to exercise in an environment where there is minimal stress on the joints, improved circulation, and facilitation of movement.
  • Patients with joint replacement surgery benefit from the decreased stress on their joints, reduced swelling and facilitation of movement.
  • Patients with low back pain benefit from the decreased stress on the back and relaxation of the water temperature.
  • Patients with sports injuries benefit from performing exercises at a faster pace due to the reduced stress on the joints.
  • Patients who are unable to perform dry-land exercises due to pain or swelling


Yes, most of the time, you can.  Aquatic therapy is best for some cases with severe pain, or to gain range of motion.  The kicker is: it'll only get you so far.  Manual therapy is going to be the best solution to improve your range of motion, and aquatic therapy does not permit the proper positioning to perform manual therapy, so even if your therapist is in the water with you or you're using buoys or body weight to increase your range of motion, land therapy will still be more beneficial.  Aquatic therapy provides a natural resistance to perform activities, but the water also provides a natural stabilizer which doesn't allow your muscles to contract as well as they need to to help maintain your balance - it will only allow you to practice the movements you need to work on, but patients usually still struggle when the time comes to perform those activities on land. For example: a meniscus repair requires that patients be non weight bearing or partial weight bearing for several weeks after surgery. Aquatic therapy is going to allow them to practice walking in the resistance of the water before they can do so on land.  And while by the end of 6 weeks after surgery they may be walking flawlessly in the water, they will still struggle to walk on land because aquatic therapy does not provide the circumstances under which patients complete their daily activities. By no means is this to say aquatic therapy is not beneficial - because it definitely is - land therapy will just help a wider range of patients get back to their end goal at a more efficient rate.