Cars are big and powerful machines whereas water is calm and gentle. When accidents occur drivers and passengers brace against the impact of the collision with the other vehicle and are moved abruptly from side to side. Car accident forces tend to affect many parts of the human body at once resulting in serious injury.
For example whiplash associated disorder (WAD), which is predominately in the neck, shoulders and head, is commonly accompanied by soft tissue injuries to the back, hip, and knees.
If you have been in a car accident, you may not have heard of a pool as a place to start with recovery and returning to daily function. You may be experiencing pain from these injuries that can be so intense that even walking or taking care of yourself is a challenge. And you may have already tried land-based exercises with little relief. When walking is hard how can a swimming pool be such an effective first step in recovery?
In this blog post I will be explaining why aquatic exercise is a great way to recover from injury especially for serious injuries and for people experiencing pain, what you can expect from an aquatic therapy session and how to start it after your accident.
Why is training in the water beneficial for active rehabilitation?
For people injured from a motor vehicle collision working with an aquatic therapist is the perfect way to start moving again. The reason is that the water provides gentle resistance in all directions in a low-gravity environment that even helps with swelling. The gentle resistance is a perfect first step to strengthen muscles needed to return to basic movement patterns like walking, lifting, pushing and pulling. For example an exercise as simple as floating with two pool noodles helps release tension in the lower or upper back muscles. Releasing tension provides pain relief. Water is a relaxing environment which also helps with emotional relaxation which creates a positive feedback loop which further improves pain levels and even sleep.
The unique properties of water such as buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure are also very helpful for recovery after a car accident. How we experience the force of gravity change in the water. Even at shoulder depth we experience very little loading of the low back. Reducing loading brings a lot of relief if you have low back or hip pain. At this depth almost 90% of gravity’s forces are removed.
Post-accident swelling and discomfort around an injury site is very common. Swelling limits joint range and movement during the day. Another property of water, hydrostatic pressure, helps with swelling by improving circulation by increasing venous return. Venous return is the process of bringing the blood back to your heart so to improve it reduces swelling and assists in lymph drainage. The effect is more powerful at depth so the body parts that are under water like knees, ankles, hips will be the most affected.
What can I expect to do in an Aquatic therapy session?
Aquatic therapy sessions are very similar to rehabilitation treatment on dry land. Many exercises that you can do in the gym can also be modified to be done in the water.
The first step is to learn the basics of how to move in the water and how to use water to create resistance for exercises. Then, you'll move to a warm-up in the main pool to lubricate joints and warm up muscles. The bulk of the session is spent performing exercises that are tailored to achieve your specific goals. Aquatic therapy at Symmetrix is one-on-one and is not in a group setting.
For example, for low back or hip pain, movements forming part of a program that help release tension in the back would include balancing on one foot, squats or water walking, and floating in the water. At the end of the session is a transition to the warm water of the hot tub where you will perform gentle stretching and relaxation. Learn more about aquatic therapy here.
Where will I be exercising?
To start with aquatic therapy clients will do an initial assessment on land to take objective measures on range of motion, strength and balance. The assessment is set up to identify goals for rehabilitation in more depth. The following session will be the time to get into the water!
Aquatic therapy sessions take place in public community center pools. If you live in Vancouver some options are Hillcrest Pool, Vancouver Aquatic Center, Eileen Daily Pool, and Killarney Pool. Public pools are excellent facilities for all abilities-with gradual walk-in entries to the pool, changing rooms, and hot tubs. In addition to one-on-one supervision from your kinesiologist or aquatic therapist, the pool is also closely monitored by certified lifeguards. And no, you don’t need to be able to swim for aquatic therapy sessions.
What do I need to bring to my session?
For your aquatic therapy session you will need
- Bathing suit/shorts
- swim cap (optional)
- hair tie if you have long hair (optional)
- quarter/lock for lockers (depending on the pool you go to)
- deck sandals/flip flops for pool deck and changing room
- toiletries to wash after pool use (optional)
How do I get started with Aquatic therapy after a car accident (in British Columbia)
Accident date within 12 weeks of first session
You can start with your initial assessment right away. All you need is an ICBC claim number, personal health number, date of accident, and date of birth. ICBC pre-approves 12 sessions of kinesiology coverage within 12 weeks of your accident. If you do not have an ICBC claim number, you will first need to contact an ICBC insurance agent. After the initial assessment, you will meet at the local community pool to have your first session in the water.
Accident date later than 12 weeks of first session
Book an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your goals and challenges with a kinesiologist. You will need to provide your current ICBC claim number, date of accident, birthdate, and personal health number. A doctor’s note may also be required. The kinesiologist leading the program will request an initial assessment approval for ICBC, and once this report is approved and completed, a further request will be submitted to ICBC based on findings from the assessment. The kinesiologist will contact you to start aquatic therapy sessions upon this second approval.
Do I need to pay for sessions?
There is either the option to pay for pool entry and submit the receipts to ICBC directly, or have pool costs paid for or submitted by the kinesiologist on your behalf. 45 minute sessions with Symmetrix do not have any user fees, however if you would like to extend the session to an hour a user fee is applied.
With cars and driving accidents and injuries happen. For those who experience challenges moving due to their injury, aquatic therapy is an excellent way to re-introduce movement into day-to-day life. The pool makes a comfortable, relaxing, and gentle environment to regain strength and get moving sooner. Regardless of the accident date, starting with aquatic therapy is straightforward and simple to do. Book a free phone consultation to speak with a kinesiologist today.