Water and sports physical therapy or hydrotherapy is a treatment method used by physiotherapy that provides innumerable benefits to the different pathologies of the locomotor system. Much is said about hydrotherapy and its benefits, but in this article we will talk more deeply about the aspects that make aquatic therapy an ideal tool for the approach of musculoskeletal pathologies.

What is water and sports physical therapy or aquatic therapy?

The hydrotherapy or water and sports physical therapy (1), is a therapeutic method wherein physiotherapeutic and rehabilitation knowledge biomechanics are used in conjunction with various treatment techniques that take the most out of the properties and benefits offered by the aquatic environment.

The hydrotherapy or water and sports physical therapy sessions will be carried out according to the needs that must be covered in a personalized way for each patient after their evaluation, since like any rehabilitation process it is not a generalized technique, but must be adapted to the person, pathology and symptomatology.

It is important to understand that hydrotherapy is a complement to the rehabilitation process, therefore, outside the aquatic environment, more techniques can also be used to achieve better treatment efficacy.

water and sports physical therapy mission beach

What are the bases or foundations of hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy complies with certain fundamentals or scientific bases that make it be considered a magnificent method of treatment or rehabilitation. They also allow us to understand much better the action that water has in this process.

Archimedes’ principle

Archimedes’ principle establishes that “a body submerged in liquid suffers a vertical push up equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces”, which consequently causes the person’s body weight to decrease up to 90% of its original weight, favoring performing rehabilitation exercises and reducing their impact on the joints.

Frictional force

According to the principle of friction force, it is established that: “the movement of a body immersed in liquid will depend on its size and speed, since the friction of the water will be greater if the size and speed increase”. This principle explains why water favors the strengthening of the muscles.

Hydrostatic pressure in water and sports physical therapy

Hydrostatic pressure is “the pressure exerted by a liquid on a submerged body”. Due to this pressure, the thoracic perimeter decreases (1-1.35cm) and the abdominal one is shortened (2.5-6.5) favoring the ascent of the diaphragm and facilitating the work of the expiratory muscles.

Thermal and mechanical stimuli

Thanks to the excellent heat conduction and absorption capacity of the water, we generate a stimulation that, combined with friction, massage, and brushing that is achieved in water, produces a vasodilation that favors blood circulation.

Benefits of hydrotherapy

Once we have known the scientific bases that support the application of hydrotherapy as an excellent tool or treatment method in the rehabilitation process, it is easy to deduce the numerous benefits (2) that they obtain from water and sports physical therapy. Sports Addiction Exists And These Are Its Symptoms.

  • It favors the breath.
  • Promotes blood circulation.
  • It produces a relaxation effect on the muscles and even a mental relaxation of the patient.
  • Produces an analgesic effect thanks to vasodilation and relaxation effect.
  • Decreases muscle contractures.
  • Contributes to improving the immune system.
  • Reduces the impact of movements on the joints.
  • It favors balance and proprioception.
  • Allows to increase muscle strength
  • It facilitates movements and also allows you to reach a greater range in them.
  • Reduces the patient’s feeling of fear and anxiety towards therapy.

Indications for water and sports physical therapy or hydrotherapy

Aquatic therapy will be of great benefit in innumerable pathologies that impair the correct functioning of the locomotor system, among which are:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle atrophies
  • Diseases with impaired balance and coordination
  • Mechanical pathologies
  • Vascular pathologies
  • Multiple sclerosis

Next we will share with you an image showing some hydrotherapy exercises for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

water and sports physical therapy la jolla


Although there are few contraindications to water and sports physical therapy or hydrotherapy, there are certain cases in which caution should be exercised with its application or simply not include it in the treatment protocol:

  • Infectious processes
  • Skin diseases
  • Circulatory insufficiency
  • Renal insufficiency

Difference between sports swimming and aquatic therapy or hydrotherapy

Swimming and hydrotherapy should not be confused, since they have completely different purposes and especially physical demands.

Swimming, being a sports discipline, requires greater physical effort, seeks to increase and enhance the physical capabilities of the person from a more sporting and competitive aspect, requires preparation and physical demands of a sports discipline. For its part, aquatic therapy will be more aimed at recovering the functional capacity of the affected area of ??the patient, restoring abilities, maintaining or preserving mobility, preventing sequelae, reducing pain, etc.


Once the bases and fundamentals of hydrotherapy, its benefits and its numerous indications are known, there is no doubt that it is an ideal method to complement the treatment protocol of patients and obtain better and more successful results.

Aquatic therapy is an excellent treatment option for physiotherapists, it also allows us to achieve, from a more psychological aspect, the confidence of the patient in the treatment and its recovery. The fact that a patient can take steps in the water that they cannot take outside of it is a motivational factor to persevere in the rehabilitation process, to continue with it and to seek to win. A patient who can move in the water without feeling pain, will associate the moment of aquatic therapy with a pleasant moment, will maintain a more positive attitude towards his condition and his body will consequently respond to this with a much more satisfactory and effective rehabilitation process. .

This is why we invite you to expand your range of techniques, methods or tools that you use on a daily basis with your patients to obtain more and better results. Aquatic rehabilitation and what you need to know about it.


Here are a few key aspects about aquatic therapy or hydrotherapy

  • Hydrotherapy meets the needs of each person and establishes the sessions based on it.
  • The physical properties of water provide numerous benefits to the rehabilitation process, including facilitating movement and reducing the impact on the joints, reducing pain and achieving physical and mental relaxation on the part of the patient.
  • Hydrotherapy or aquatic therapy should not be confused with swimming, they are activities designed to achieve totally different goals.
  • Hydrotherapy is not a replacement for physiotherapy, it is a complement to the physiotherapeutic rehabilitation protocol.