Water is a safe, fun and uniquely challenging environment in which to exercise; it displaces up to 80% of a person’s weight (buoyancy effect) which makes it easier to move in water and provides the body’s joints with extra space which contributes to better range of motion and therefore ability. Muscle toning and strengthening becomes possible in the water for people who experience significant pain and dysfunction when attempting exercise on land: this includes arthritic conditions, overweight individuals as well as spinal conditions and injuries.
The hydrostatic pressure of water is also greatly beneficial to circulation: it assists the body in venous return, takes some stress off the heart and can help in decreasing swelling in the body, especially the extremities (legs and arms). The warm temperature of the water also contributes to better blood supply to the whole body which means there is more oxygen being delivered to the body as a whole and thus the body’s natural healing processes get a boost.
Exercising in water is also a total body workout – the lungs and intercostal muscles have to work a bit harder in the water so respiratory rate increases while at the same time heart rate is naturally decreased so the stress on the heart is much less with more oxygen going round the body – and it feels mostly effortless.
In addition, there are specific motion techniques the biokineticist uses such as Bad Ragaz, active assisted and active resisted movements and incorporation of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching patterns. A combination of all these exercises and movements make up a hydrotherapy session which means it is also of benefit to children with special needs such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy as well as adults with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, ankylosing spondylitis, joint rehab post-surgery – almost anything will benefit from being in the water.
And you don’t have to know how to swim; the biokineticist is in the pool during the session to assist, demonstrate and carry out the various stretch and movement patterns.
Information adapted from: – Introduction to Hydrotherapy Course (2009) by Dr G Joubert – The Benefits of Aqua Aerobics Exercise from www.aerobicsworkout.net/aqua-aerobics-exercise.php – Benefits of Water Aerobics from www.squidoo.com/benefits-of-water-aerobics
Muscle tone refers to the stiffness, or tone, of muscles. The various postural muscles of the body (supporting the spine and pelvis i.e. the trunk) are crucially important in helping us sit up properly and adjust our body position while we carry out daily activities. In children this becomes especially important as weakness in these trunk muscles can stunt development and lead to learning and concentration problems.
Some neurological conditions create low muscle tone due to areas of the brain being affected in-utero, during or after birth. These children generally need therapeutic intervention early on and may require years of exercise therapy to help correctly stimulate the brain and body to function as well as possible. However, more common, is low muscle tone from disuse: children are not as active anymore and so these muscles do not have a chance to develop and strengthen the way they should.
Parents also need to help out with home therapy programs for best results
This can lead to critical developmental milestones being delayed (such as crawling, sitting up and walking) or if the child is already entering a school environment they may battle to concentrate on their lessons as their trunk muscles are unable to keep them sitting up – the resulting slouched posture interferes with concentration and therefore learning. These children will need occupational and exercise therapy to correct the muscle tone and help them catch up to their peers and age-appropriate motor ability.
Biokinetics can assist the low muscle tone child alongside their occupational therapy by providing stimulating exercises which can be done at home as well to develop as much strength as possible. Swimming is often a great activity as it requires the use of entire body’s muscles plus motor coordination to correctly achieve a buoyant body position and stroke pattern. I usually combine swimming teaching with hydrotherapy when dealing with children in the pool: children learn best through play and positive reinforcement i.e. if they are having fun and don’t even notice the session is about therapy then their hard work does not feel like hard work and they are rewarded through praise and having fun.
Children have fun while gaining important motor skills in the pool
Water is a great place for kids to become stronger
Pictures used from 10 Uses for an Exercise Ball with Children found on http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/10-uses-for-an-exercise-ball-with-children/ and The Aquatic Therapist from http://www.aquatictherapist.com/index/pediatric/
Low back pain is becoming more common among individuals of all ages, gender and activity levels. The most common cause of non-specific low back pain is weak core stabilising muscles and poor posture ².
The spine is made up of 33 individual bones called vertebra: 7 cervical vertebra of the neck. 12 thoracic vertebra of the trunk, 5 lumbar vertebra of the lower back and 9 fused vertebrae of the sacrum ¹. The vertebrae form a protective tunnel around the spinal cord from the brain down to the sacrum. Nerves exit the side of each vertebra to innervate specific areas of the body; these nerves can be found next to bone, muscle and ligaments ¹.
Structures of the spine
Vertebral discs are located in between each of the vertebra of the spine to act as shock absorbers during the force distribution the body experiences while we move about. There are also many ligaments and muscles running along the spine to support it and keep it aligned correctly ¹.
If there is an injury to any of the joints in the vertebrae or inflammation, this creates dysfunction – an interruption in the correct function of each muscle and joint in the spine. Most often this translates into muscle spasm and pain; because of this pain we tend to try avoiding using the affected muscle which in turn leads to disuse atrophy ³. The affected muscle becomes deactivated and unable to fulfil its function correctly, which in turn puts even more pressure on the other muscles and structures of the spine leading to further pain and dysfunction ³.
Biokinetics use the science of movement and exercise to find exactly which muscles need to be strengthened and which stretched in order to prescribe an exercise program to target these muscles and create a better balance between supporting muscles (the core) and the rest of the body. Exercises include flexibility work: stretching hamstrings, gluteals, quadriceps, muscles along the spine. Flexibility will improve the muscles’ ability to move more and thus allow the joints on either side to move better as well. Better movement leads to less pain and inflammation ². Strength work usually begins with self-awareness: being able to locate the deep core muscles, these include the pelvic floor muscles (Kegal exercises), the erector spinae and multifidi muscle groups alongside the spine and the gluteal muscles. Teaching the brain to activate these muscles is the first step in improving spinal stability so that all other movements have a strong foundation to work from ².
Most individuals feel a significant improvement within a few sessions of starting biokinetics if there are no other underlying conditions (these will be discussed in more detail in other posts).
References used in this article
Hamilton, N. & Luttgens, K. (2002). Kinesiology. Scientific Basis of Human Motion. [10th ed.] McGraw Hill.
Houglam, P.A. (2005). Therapeutic Exercise for Muscoluskeletal Injuries [2nd ed.] Human Kinetics.
Ulrich, P.F. (n.d.). Back Muscles and Low Back Pain. Retrieved on 5 January 2016 from http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/back-muscles-and-low-back-pain.