In 1976, the employees of Children?s Hospital
& Regional Medical Center in Seattle decided to
build a pool for sick and disabled youngsters, and crank
the water temperature up to a comfortable 93 degrees. For
an hour a day, the little patients were given a chance to
do something they?d always wanted: Be kids
What the employees created became more than the hospital
ever anticipated one of the nation?s
first therapy pools. Cardiac patients and cystic fibrosis
patients found swimming to be a beneficial, low-impact
exercise. Psychiatric patients built skills and positive
interactions within the warm water. The hospital soon added
mobility swims, patient programming, family swim time,
lessons and community adult programs. Approximately five
years ago, an award-winning, adapted-aquatics program was
?We?ve seen a lot more referrals and the
pain management team is referring a lot more kids,?
said Kathy Bateman, therapy pool program supervisor at the
That?s because hospitals and wellness centers
are recognizing the benefits of therapy in warm water.
Making a patient light and buoyant while moving against
water creates new levels of endurance and strength without
gravity causing stress and pain. As baby boomers hit middle
age and look for ways to recover from their still active
lifestyles, aquatic therapy will only continue to grow in
demand, according to experts.
Designers have already seen the spike in demand.
?The past few years have seen a marked increase in
the construction of therapeutic pools,? said Randy
Mendioroz, principal of the Aquatic Design Group in
?More and more debilitated [people] are coming
to the pool,? said Ruth Sova, founder of Aquatic
Therapy and Rehab Institute, Inc. in Port Washington, Wis.
?There are some good things that happen to a body
as a result of immersion.?
Sova also has seen an increase in actual therapy pools
as opposed to placing patients in traditional pools.
Designs include ramps for wheelchairs, railings and bars
for patrons to hold, and a variation of depths for shallow
to deep water training.
Designers note the same trend. ?Historically
you?ll go into a hospital and they?ll have
water therapy baths, which were dedicated stainless steel
containers. They would do their exercises in that little
vat of water,? said Treadwell Jones, aquatics
manager at Larkin Aquatics in Kansas City, Mo. ?Now
aquatic therapy has come about where ? you work
with different parts of the pool.?
Other hospitals and care centers have caught on. Gaylord
Hospital in Wallingford, Conn., has a 75-by-25-foot pool,
with a special bench for those who need to sit during
exercise. Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru, Ill.,
boasts a state-of-the-art 1,500-square- foot warm-water
pool with hydrotherapy jet benches, massage, a deep well
and underwater exercise equipment.
Still, some aquatic therapists said they have a hard
time making others understand the difference between a pool
and a therapy pool.
?[Therapy pools] are becoming more
handicapped-accessible, but there are a lot of barriers
that still need to be overcome,? said Tera
Galloway, aquatic trainer with Rehab Focus in Owosso, Mich.
?Depth, temperature and equipment are the three
primary things we look at. You?re creating an
environment that fosters inclusion.?