The Healing Power of Water

Photo by Wes Battoclette

There’s something nostalgic about the act of swimming. Whether it’s a summer dip in the lake, a competition surrounded by the scent of chlorine or a trip to the ocean, most individuals have memories of some form of water-based fun.

But water does more for the mind and body than simply trigger memories of bygone years. Cedar Village Retirement Community recently opened The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati Aquatic Therapy Center to provide residents and members of the community with the therapeutic benefits of swimming.

“ The buoyancy of the water takes away body weight,” says Eamonn Finnegan, a physical therapist at Cedar Village. He explains that sometimes, a patient who has sustained an injury, physically reacts by moving to accommodate that injury; a patient with a leg injury will walk with less weight placed on that leg to avoid pain. “They may be afraid to move normally, but everyone can move more freely underwater,” he says. “There’s less fear of falling or of injury, and the water gives a resistance that helps with strengthening and mobility.”

Debi Tyler, director of rehabilitation at Cedar Village, recalls a patient with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a condition where the immune system attacks the body’s own nervous system, bringing about numbness and, sometimes, paralysis. Though there is no cure for the condition, many treatments, like water therapy, can help lessen the symptoms and restore mobility. “This woman couldn’t walk on land at all,” says Tyler. “But after participating in water therapy, she can walk short distances and can get up herself from a sitting position. She said being in the water was the most freeing thing she’d felt in the year since receiving her diagnosis.”

Water-based physical therapy is a new and exciting addition to the Cedar Village repertoire. The aquatic center boasts many amenities

for both fun and therapy. Just inside the doors is a 23-foot by 52-foot pool with lap lanes, a wheelchair lift and a chair lift. Further inside are two HydroWorx pools – a rare sight outside of a sports therapy facility.

“ The HydroWorx pools are unique and rare,” says Tyler. The small, 9.6-foot by 6-foot pools are fully equipped with a hydraulic lift floor to make it easier for patients to get in and out. The floor also contains a treadmill and underwater cameras that display the patient’s movements on a screen for the therapist to watch and monitor.

“Water helps the patients acquire the ability to move better on land,” says Tyler. She adds that sessions are typically 30 to 45 minutes, and each individual might have up to three sessions a week – some in the water, some on land.

Pool temperatures range between 88 and 92 degrees, Since warm water is soothing and helps patients’ tight muscles relax. “Many residents will participate more in the water than on land,” says Tyler. “It eliminates their fear of falling and adds a fun element, so it doesn’t feel as much like therapy to them.”

Water is associated with fun, something different from many other entertainment options, and this provides an appeal. When therapy feels like fun, it becomes effective for both the body and the soul.

Today, the Cedar Village aquatic center offers a handful of classes like water Tai-Chi and Aquatics for Arthritis, but Tyler and the staff are working to provide more options for everyone: residents, members of the community and staff alike.