McFarland Clinic Aquatic Therapy

Physical therapist and athletic trainer, Chris
Hanfelt, discusses the unique benefits of McFarland Clinic’s aquatic therapy services
and its SwimEx therapy pool. There are numerous benefits of aquatic therapy. Aquatic exercise
offers a stress-free mode of hitting all major muscle groups. The buoyancy of the water also
acts to unweight the body, which gives you a better mode of exercise. The SwimEx 700
T comes with varying depths of four feet, five feet, and six and a half feet deep. This
can benefit our patients because the various depths of the pool can allow for partial weight
bearing. As long as a person is sternum-deep in the water, they’re 80% buoyant. The top
of their clavicle is 90% buoyant, so we can put a patient into an environment which can
almost completely unweight the patient, and thereby unweight the joints and give them
a better mode of exercise. The water in the SwimEx 700 T is also 92 degrees. The warm
water provides relaxation and stress relief for patients with chronic pain or tight muscles.
The warmth and gentle massage of the current that flows through the pool also can promote
relaxation and decreases stress to stiff, achy joints. The SwimEx also has an underwater
treadmill, which makes it very unique. The treadmill can allow a person to work on gait
training and work on trying to gain normal movements as they try to get back into sports
or just get back into normal functional activities. The SwimEx has a current that runs through
it that goes up to 6.5 miles an hour and has a laminar current flow. This is different
than just normal current pools that have two to three jets that go through it. The laminar
current flow allows for constantly changing current from the top of our pool to the bottom
that can allow patients to replicate functional or sports-specific activities, increase strength
and conditioning, and actually improve balance because the current is constantly changing.
The treadmill in the water is nice because we can work on gait training and such with
patients in an unweighted environment. So, a patient then out of the pool that can’t
really walk, in the pool, they can because they’re unweighted. And so now, we can work
on gait training; we can work on functional activities. We can work on sports-specific
things and really try to get that person so that if they can do it in the aquatic environment,
now they can do it out of the pool. The benefit of being able to do steps in the pool is that
now it’s going to create function outside of the pool. So, we can work on a person that
can maybe only bend their knee a certain way, or bend their ankle a certain way. Now we
can work on maybe a four-inch step, but then we can progress to more of an eight-inch step,
which is what normal people have to do in life. And then for more athletic-type things,
we can do 12-inch steps, so we can really try and work on strength and function for
those patients. What’s nice about running in the SwimEx versus just running in a normal
pool is we have the current going against you, so you can get a patient into a running
environment. Again, they’re unweighted, so now they can run where maybe outside of the
pool they couldn’t. And having the current, that laminar flow going against them, you
can work on resistance of the water. You can also work on balance at the same time because
the current is constantly changing, and then, having the increased resistance, now we can
work on conditioning for the patient as well, regardless if it’s a patient that’s a work
comp patient and we’re trying to get them conditioned to go back to work or a sports
patient that we’re trying to get back onto the field of play. To learn more about physical
therapy offered at McFarland Clinic, including aquatic therapy with the clinic’s new SwimEx
machine, call (515) 956-4014, or visit us online at

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