AquaHab Physical Therapy Case Study Demonstrates Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Patients with Multiple Sclerosis

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Les Littman of AquaHab Physical Therapy Outlines MS Case Study Results, Revealing Effectiveness of Aquatic Exercises for Weakness, Fatigue and Loss of Balance

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The natural properties of water make it an ideal medium for those with physical limitations. Its buoyancy provides support for weak limbs and promotes muscle relaxation, while its resistance helps build muscle strength.

A new AquaHab Physical Therapy case study documents the advantages of aquatic therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms, according to patient results recorded by the Greater Philadelphia physical therapy practice. These findings support a number of earlier research studies detailing the benefits of aquatic and physical therapy for patients with MS.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is a chronic and often debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system, with symptoms ranging from mild (such as numbness of the limbs) to severe (including paralysis and loss of vision). The value of aquatic therapy for patients with multiple sclerosis is recognized by the National MS Society, which reports, “The unique qualities of water provide exceptional benefits to people with MS. Water helps people with MS move in ways they may not be able to on land.”(1)

Numerous studies have also highlighted the benefits of aquatic therapy for individuals with MS. A recent study from Denmark concluded that exercise therapy, including aquatic therapy, has the potential to create a positive effect on MS fatigue.(2) A separate study from Iran focused exclusively on aquatic therapy, and determined that “aquatic exercise has enhanced the aspects of multiple sclerosis patients’ quality of life.”(3)

Les Littman, President and CEO of AquaHab, LP, says the therapists at his practice’s clinics have reported success in using both aquatic and physical therapy treatments for patients with MS. He cites a recent case study detailing the effectiveness of aquatic therapy for a 37-year-old female patient with multiple sclerosis.

The subject of the AquaHab Physical Therapy case study was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS in 2006 and had experienced multiple flare-ups since then. She had previously undergone land-based physical therapy treatment, and opted to pursue aquatic therapy to facilitate further progress and relief from her symptoms. Her complaints included: loss of balance and frequent falls (approximately three times per week); coordination issues when walking; overall weakness, which was especially pronounced in the upper extremities; difficulty with stairs and prolonged standing (more than 30 minutes); fatigue when walking 15 minutes or longer; and an inability to kneel.

The patient’s treatment plan included skilled aquatic physical therapy two times per week for seven weeks. The treatments involved a series of exercises performed in the 78- to 80-degree pool at the aquatic fitness center, including deep-water walking and trunk stabilization exercises, as well as shallow-water exercises focused on improving her flexibility, range of motion, strength, gait training, balance, and endurance. The exercise program also encompassed pelvic stability exercises (dynamic lumbar stabilization); quadriceps, gluteal, and hamstring strengthening using either paddles, kickboards, or cuff weights; heel and toe raises, squats, and standing straight leg raises; and calf, hamstring, quad, and hip flexor stretching.

At the conclusion of her aquatic therapy treatment program, the patient demonstrated improvements in her range of motion, strength (including abdominals), gait, and balance. She also reported a decreased frequency in falls, with no falls in the two-and-a-half weeks prior to discharge. She regained the ability to kneel, and was able to perform daily activities – such as walking up and down stairs, walking her dog one or two miles per day, and standing for nearly 60 minutes – without fatigue.

“All of the evidence points to the effectiveness of aquatic exercises for MS patients, particularly as part of a treatment plan developed by licensed physical therapists. Our own experience has shown that those suffering from MS can make remarkable strides when participating in an aquatic physical therapy program,” remarked Littman. “The natural properties of water make it an ideal medium for those with physical limitations. Its buoyancy provides support for weak limbs and promotes muscle relaxation, while its resistance helps build muscle strength. Those with balance and coordination issues find it easier – and safer – to exercise in water. In addition, those who have heat sensitivity find it more comfortable to exercise in the cool waters of a temperature-controlled pool.”

Littman encourages those suffering from multiple sclerosis symptoms – as well as anyone experiencing weakness, fatigue, pain, or balance and coordination issues – to schedule a physical therapy evaluation to determine the best course of treatment. Patients seeking a physical therapy clinic in the Philadelphia metro area will find a full spectrum of rehabilitative services at AquaHab Physical Therapy. New patients may request a free consultation at any of AquaHab’s four clinics, as well as a free tour of the facilities. To schedule a free screening, prospective patients may submit an information request online or call the nearest clinic: 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.

To learn more about AquaHab Physical Therapy – including available aquatic and land-based physical therapy services, as well as location information – 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.

1 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Content from website: “What Is Multiple Sclerosis?” “You Can…Exercise in Water.”
2 Andreasen, Anne Katrine; Egon Stenager; and Ulrik Dalgas. “The effect of exercise therapy on fatigue in multiple sclerosis.” Multiple Scerlosis Journal; September 2011.
3 Rafeeyan, Zahra et al. “Effect of aquatic exercise on the multiple sclerosis patients’ quality of life.” Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research; Winter 2010.

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