Reclaiming independence through aquatic therapy


Reclaiming independence through aquatic therapy

Health Susan Unice using the warm-water pool for aquatic therapy.

Susan Unice finds some relief from her pain through aquatic therapy.

For some people, everyday activities can cause debilitating pain. One treatment that may help is aquatic therapy.

The approach is offered through Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services at Tidelands Health Pawleys Family YMCA and Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA in Myrtle Beach. Aquatic therapy gives patients living with pain a low-impact way to exercise and may even lessen symptoms.

Tidelands Health is the exclusive health system partner of the YMCA of Coastal Carolina, including Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA, Tidelands Health Pawleys Family YMCA and Tidelands Health Georgetown Family YMCA. Together, the two organizations are providing the community with access to a broad variety of services and programs to improve health and wellness.

Aquatic therapy uses the properties of water to help patients exercise and heal. One of the biggest benefits of aquatic therapy is the buoyancy provided by water, which helps to support a patient’s weight and make it easier and less painful to complete exercises.

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“They can get in water and move so much more with such less impact,“ says Beth Vorp, a Tidelands Health physical therapist assistant who works with patients at Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA. “Their joints don’t hurt, they can stand more upright and they can tolerate doing more.”

When James Gavenas, a Tidelands Health aquatic therapy patient, bent over to pick up his dog one day, he experienced sharp pain in his back and down his leg, leaving him unable to walk on his own.

“With the way it happened, my doctor said the injury could potentially heal itself with therapy,” Gavenas says. “I started the aquatic therapy, went back to see my doctor and he said it looks good and that we won’t have to do surgery.”

James Gavenas smiling with his wife

After eight aquatic therapy sessions, Gavenas could walk around his home without assistance from a walker or cane.

“I couldn’t believe how much better it is in the water than it is on land,” says Gavenas. “I can walk the pool eight times back and forth and not deep breathe at all. I couldn’t do that on land, especially when I first started.”

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Aquatic therapy can also help people with arthritis by reducing some of the pain in their joints. After completing therapy, some people can begin or return to land-based exercise routines.

“If someone, for instance, with severe arthritis has so much pain in their joints, they can’t handle the impact of gravity,” says Vorp. “Once they get in the water, they can move and do so much better.”

Susan Unice, a Tidelands Health aquatic therapy patient, was very active, walking two miles per day, before her arthritic pain became unbearable.

Susan Unice using the warm-water pool for aquatic therapy.

“I’ve had injections in my back, I have done shots – anything to help with the pain,” says Unice. “One doctor that told me I would benefit from knee replacement surgery, but I’m doing everything I can to avoid that.”

Unice says aquatic therapy has restored her quality of life and plans to continue with the program for as long as it offers her relief.

“When I come to therapy, I’ll go in the water with pain and after an hour, I’ll come out of therapy and have no pain,” says Unice. “It’s going to become a way of life for me.”

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