AquaHab Physical Therapy Case Study Supports New Findings on the Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Total Knee Replacement

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Les Littman of AquaHab Physical Therapy Cites Successful Patient Outcomes as Evidence of the Advantages of Aquatic Therapy for Individuals with Total Knee Replacements

Aquatic therapy allowed the patient to work on his range of motion, balance, cardiovascular endurance, and functional abilities while taking advantage of water's natural buoyancy to control joint compression and mediate pain

According to new research findings and an AquaHab Physical Therapy case study, aquatic therapy appears to be highly beneficial for patients who have undergone a total knee replacement (TKR). A research team in Germany determined that patients who begin aquatic therapy just six days after a TKR are likely to experience improved results.* Lead researcher, Thoralf Liebs, theorized that the pressure of the water helps reduce fluid buildup in the knee joint, thereby resulting in less pain. AquaHab Physical Therapy – a multi-clinic practice serving the Greater Philadelphia area – saw similar positive outcomes for a patient who had undergone a TKR in both knees, according to a recent case study documented by Tate Rice, Director of AquaHab Physical Therapy.

The subject of the AquaHab Physical Therapy case study was referred to the clinic in October 2011, after having a TKR of the right knee earlier in the month. He subsequently underwent a TKR of the left knee at the beginning of November. His past medical history included a total hip replacement in 2009 and a lumbar laminectomy in 2008, as well as hypertension and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While AquaHab Physical Therapy offers both aquatic and land therapies, the patient’s therapist determined that he would be best served by an aquatics-based program due to his high subjective report of pain, history of severe back pain, and MS-related balance issues. The referring surgeon was consulted and approved the treatment plan.

Among the goals of the treatment were improving the patient’s strength, endurance, and range of motion while minimizing his pain. His movements were affected by the severity of his pain, so he was submerged in chest-deep water to minimize the force of gravity and his own body weight while focusing on proper gait technique. As his strength improved and pain decreased, he was able to transition to 4 feet deep water to increase the joint load, and was eventually able to walk on land without difficulty. He followed a similar process for stairs, beginning by climbing up and down steps in deeper water and progressing to 4 feet deep water over time. Upon completion of his physical therapy, he was able to manage the full flight of stairs in his home without pain – an important achievement given that his bedroom and bathroom were located on the second floor.

The treatment plan devised by AquaHab Physical Therapy also addressed other deconditioning and balance issues. The patient had been inactive for more than a year due to osteoarthritis of the knee and chronic back pain, and had become deconditioned. By exercising in the pool, he was able to complete 15 to 30 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise without pain, thereby building up his activity endurance. He was also able to work on his MS-related balance issues in the pool without the risk of falling or injury. His physical therapist started him out with the aid of assistive equipment, which was phased out as the patient’s balance improved. In addition, the therapist performed manual stretching after each aquatic session, which helped to increase the patient’s range of motion, and developed a home exercise program that helped the patient maintain his progress and momentum between visits.

“By the time this patient completed physical therapy for both the left and right knees, his outcomes were excellent,” said Rice. “In my professional opinion, the use of aquatic physical therapy allowed this patient to progress much faster than he would have otherwise. His compliance with physical therapy and an extensive home exercise program, along with hands-on treatment by his therapist, also played significant roles. Aquatic therapy allowed the patient to work on his range of motion, balance, cardiovascular endurance, and functional abilities while taking advantage of water's natural buoyancy to control joint compression and mediate pain. A traditional land-based program would not have been able to deliver results like these within the same timeframe.”

Rice encourages anyone recovering from knee, hip, or back surgery – as well as those with low back pain, joint pain, muscle weakness, or injuries – to explore the benefits of aquatic therapy. AquaHab Physical Therapy offers both aquatic therapy and traditional land-based therapy, and provides a full spectrum of rehabilitative services. New patients may request a free consultation at any of AquaHab’s four physical therapy clinics in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. To schedule a free screening, individuals may submit an information request online, or call or visit any of AquaHab’s four locations: Northeast Philadelphia – 215-677-0400, ext. 1122; Bala Cynwyd – 610-664-6464, ext. 1308; Jenkintown – 215-887-8787, ext. 1418; or Cherry Hill, N.J. – 856-751-8899, ext. 1225. Free tours of the facilities are also available.

To learn more about AquaHab Physical Therapy – including details on aquatic therapy and land-based physical therapy services, as well as addresses and directions – visit

About AquaHab Physical Therapy
Founded in 1991, AquaHab Physical Therapy is a service-driven business offering a full range of aquatic and land therapies. The practice employs an experienced and highly trained clinical team of licensed physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, registered/licensed occupational therapists, and registered dieticians. In addition to rehabilitative services, AquaHab Physical Therapy provides total wellness solutions in partnership with its sister company, the Aquatic and Fitness Center(AFC). Both organizations share state-of-the-art facilities at four locations in the Greater Philadelphia area, including Northeast Philadelphia, Bala Cynwyd, and Jenkintown, PA, as well as Cherry Hill, N.J. For more information, visit or call 866-577-3422.


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Karla Jo Helms
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