Background and purpose.
As a component of the physical therapy armamentarium, aquatic therapy aims to improve functional limitations, prevent secondary impairments, and improve overall health in a variety of patients, including the pediatric population. The aquatic therapy environment enables nonweight bearing or limited weight bearing exercises, promoting relaxation, decreased muscle tone and pain, and improved range of motion. Previous research of aquatic therapy for children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) has primarily focused on children at Gross Motor Functional Classification System (GMFCS) level I. Research examining the role of aquatic therapy for children with Spina Bifida (SB) is not reported in the literature. The purpose of this case series is to describe and examine the outcomes of an aquatic therapy intervention on core strength, balance, gait speed, and quality of life in children with CP (GMFCS levels II and III) and children with SB (level L3 or below).
Two children with CP and one child with SB participated in a 7-week aquatic therapy program, consisting of 45 min sessions once per week. Pre- and post-testing measured changes in core strength (sit-up test), balance (Pediatric Balance Scale), gait speed (10 Meter Walk Test), and quality of life (Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory). Intervention. The aquatic therapy program consisted of individualized exercises to help improve core muscle strength, balance, gait speed, and overall function. The interventions were tailored to each child's individual needs based on initial examination findings.
Two of the three participants improved in all tested areas. The other improved in three of the four tested areas
Aquatics can be a useful tool to improve core strength, balance, gait speed, and quality of life in children with CP and SB and larger scale trials with rigorous designs are warranted.