It's pool season, a time when you might think about practicing your strokes or relaxing on an inflatable raft. But for people like Charles Nahas of Hazleton, the pool also is a place for healing and recovery.
That's because Nahas, 80, suffered for three years from spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a defect in a part of the spine causes vertebra to slip to one side of the body. He also had spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. Both conditions lead to back and leg pain.
To find relief, Nahas tried pain management and chiropractic care. They helped only for a short time, and soon Nahas couldn't take walks or go fishing. Then he tried physical therapy. "But the pain was too great for me to continue," he says.
The benefits of aquatic therapy
That's when Nahas learned about the aquatic therapy program at the Health & Wellness Center at Hazleton. "I asked my physician to write me a prescription for it, and what a difference it's made," Nahas says.
Sessions are held inside a pool that includes an underwater treadmill. Physical therapists work with each patient to tailor treatment, which could include using the treadmill, paddles, flotation devices or massage jets.
"With a temperature of between 94 and 96 degrees, the water warms the muscles and has a buoyancy effect, which makes it easier for patients to move than in a land-based program," says physical therapist Gene Myers.
Aquatic therapy helps to heal musculoskeletal issues and conditions for people of all ages and abilities. Sessions can help people improve gait, muscle strength and endurance, balance, agility, function, coordination, flexibility, body mechanics and posture.
Back on track
For Nahas, aquatic therapy helped him rebuild strength. "I worked with him a few times a week and saw a big improvement in him after just two weeks," Myers says.
Myers led Nahas through exercise routines in shallow water. He also worked with him on the underwater treadmill. It simulates land-based walking, running or sports-specific activities, but because it's underwater, impact on joints and body weight are lessened.
After two months of aquatic therapy, Nahas is pain-free and back to regular gym workouts three days a week. He uses six different machines and exercises at home too. "The aqua therapy was a great deal of help," he says. "Gene and the therapy team were very knowledgeable and went out of their way to help me achieve my goals."