Aquatherapy for Gait Training

I have waxed poetic in previous blog posts about my love of the water, so when I began my PT today at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, I was super excited that it was pool day!

The Center has two different pools – one slightly larger than the other (but definitely not large enough for swimming). The second pool has a built in treadmill (!!). Both pools have several video cameras so you can see what your body is doing underwater.

In the first pool, we strapped on a resistance tool on my ankles so they would have more “drag” (i.e. weight) through the water. In the first exercises, I kicked my left (affected, weak, MS-y) ankle back and forth through the water. Bonus here is that my hip flexor is also weak, and the same motion works both hip and dorsiflexion at the same time. Here’s the view of it that I could see on the TV.

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Next up, I stood on a step to try to stretch out my ankle some (it stretches very little, but the water was heated so that helped a bit).

Then I worked on hopping (fun!) and bounding (fun, but I felt like an idiot), which is just a long hop. I do not bound or hop well as my ankle has prevented me from doing these things for years. My left calf  muscles are both tight and weak, so they don’t generate the force needed for power moves well, but it was a little easier with the bouyancy of the water (also more fun). That said, part of the plan that we’ve been working on all week at Kennedy Krieger are things to help reduce the tone in my calf so that jumping can be something I add to my training on land (but I digress.)

After the resistance work in the first pool, we transferred to the other pool with the treadmill. These pools are used by people of a lot of varying functional levels, including people in wheelchairs, so they have an ingenious way for you to get into and out of them. They have a floor that raises and lowers you in and out of the water. Check it out in photos below to see how the floor (filled with holes) lowers, and the water comes through the holes in the floor.

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Once I was lowered down into the pool, I started walking (Kim walked with me). We went at both fast and slow paces, and you could see how hard my left leg was working to lift against the weight of the water as time progressed in the video link below. At the end of the video, you see the view that I saw on the TV.

I also walked forward, backward, and sideways in each direction.

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Since I don’t have access to a pool treadmill, Kim said if I wanted to practice walking in a regular pool, I should go to the kids pool and weave in and out of children. “It’s great ankle and hip stability training!,” she said.

In health,


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