Review Article

The benefits of hydrotherapy to patients with spinal cord injuries

Terry J. Ellapen, Henriëtte V. Hammill, Mariëtte Swanepoel, Gert L. Strydom
African Journal of Disability | Vol 7 | a450 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v7i0.450 | © 2018 Terry J. Ellapen, Henriëtte V. Hammill, Mariëtte Swanepoel, Gert L. Strydom | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 November 2017 | Published: 16 May 2018

About the author(s)

Terry J. Ellapen, School of Biokinetics Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, South Africa
Henriëtte V. Hammill, School of Biokinetics Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, South Africa
Mariëtte Swanepoel, School of Biokinetics Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, South Africa
Gert L. Strydom, School of Biokinetics Recreation and Sport, Physical Activity Sport and Recreation (PhASRec), North-West University, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Many patients with spinal cord injury (PWSCI) lead sedentary lifestyles, experiencing poor quality of life and medical challenges. PWSCI don’t like to participate in land-based-exercises because it’s tedious to perform the same exercises, decreasing their rehabilitative compliance and negatively impacting their well-being. An alternative exercise environment and exercises may alleviate boredom, enhancing compliance.

Objectives: Discuss the benefits of hydrotherapy to PWSCI concerning underwater gait-kinematics, thermoregulatory and cardiovascular responses and spasticity.

Methodology: A literature surveillance was conducted between 1998 and 2017, through the Crossref meta-database and Google Scholar, according to the PRISMA procedures. Key search words were water-therapy, aquatic-therapy, hydrotherapy, spinal cord injury, rehabilitation, human, kinematics, underwater gait, cardiorespiratory, thermoregulation and spasticity. The quality of each paper was evaluated using a modified Downs and Black Appraisal Scale. The participants were records pertaining to PWSCI and hydrotherapy. The outcomes of interest were: hydrotherapy interventions, the impact of hydrotherapy on gait-kinematics, thermoregulation during water submersion and cardiorespiratory function of PWSCI. Omitted records included: non-English publications from before 1998 or unrelated to hydrotherapy and PWSCI. The record screening admissibility was performed as follows: the title screen, the abstract screen and the full text screen.

Results: Literature search identified 1080 records. Upon application of the exclusion criteria, 92 titles, 29 abstracts and 17 full text records were eligible. Only 15 records were selected to be included in this clinical commentary. Evidence shows a paucity of randomised control trials (RCT) conducted in this field.

Conclusion: Hydrotherapy improves PWSCI underwater gait-kinematics, cardiorespiratory and thermoregulatory responses and reduces spasticity.


Keywords

Hydrotherapy; spinal cord injury; rehabilitation

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