The Benefits Of Water Therapy For Traumatic Brain Injury

Refreshing the body and the mood, water therapy has the capacity to cause not only major changes to our mental and physical health, but our overall well-being.  Water therapy activates nearly all our muscles simultaneously, something that we would simply not experience in our day-to-day lives otherwise.  Likewise, there is a magic in the water, a reduction in the impact of gravity on our bodies, that we would never be able to access on dry land, an experience akin to a spacewalk in the way that it is wholly unlike our experience chained to the ground by the force of Earth’s gravity.


What is more, there is a unique type of movement endemic to bodies of water, which makes it possible to improve balance and build strength – all while relaxing the body, creating a type of synergy, on the one hand exercising the muscles and the other hand taking pressure off of them. It is also possible that water therapy may improve dynamic balance, lending itself not only to agility but to the mind-body connection as a whole.  For TBI survivors, water therapy serves a magnitude of benefits.


Canva - Close Up Photo of Swimming Rope (1)Water therapy allows TBI survivors to freely move their torso, weight bare, and roll over when  they are not strong enough to do so outside of the water.  Additionally, being weightless in the water allows the individual to practice standing, kicking, bring the knees to their chest, and build strength all throughout their body.  Additionally, there are highly beneficial stretches that are only possible in the water, such as wearing ankle weights and free hang to elongate the spine. For individuals who cannot stand on land, water makes the perfect environment to weight shift, march, scissor kicks, practice the walking motion, or any other movement that they are unable to do on land.  Additionally, water resistance provides a non impact form of strength training.  Additional benefits of water therapy include the following:

➢ Faster rate of rehabilitation; Research has shown that victims of traumatic brain injury involved in water therapy have a quick response to the healing process when compared to their counterparts who aren’t undergoing a water therapy exercise. The use of their body parts during water therapy exercise increases their stability and help build back their body muscles.

Water therapy exercises also helps its patients to regain their functional range of motion: The major objective of a well-trained water therapist is to help victims of traumatic brain injury to overcome the limitation of motion the condition may bring. The exercise is programmed in a way that they help to involve the patients in various activities in a safe environment.

➢ Aquatic therapy for traumatic brain injury patients has a way of enhancing concentration: The pool environment is very comfortable and unique and can help a patient in pain to even find a sense of calmness or peace in it. The environment is seeming less of a clinic and is often associated by many as a fun giver.  At the pool, exercise and therapy has a way of naturally graduating into a recreation activity, games and even to friendship.

➢ Water therapy exercises increase balance and body posture of the patients: The practice of slow, controlled movements in a neck deep warm water gives balance to the body.  Victims of traumatic brain injury may have balance related issues that has to do with their sitting or standing posture. The warm water tends to increase the circulation of blood in the patient’s body thus making blood available to every part of the body for action. This in turn is responsible for cardiovascular fitness and increased range of motion.

➢ Water therapy exercises also helps give support to weak muscles; The exercises done in water can help resist upward trust of buoyancy, which encourages further independence.  An individual who finds it difficult to support their body weight on land is given the ability to walk, stand, or lunge on in the water with minimal support. This is because neck deep submersion in the water has decreases body weight up to about 90%.  With that said, water therapy also allows for flexibility and easy handling of the patients muscle by the water therapists. At an advanced stage of recovering, the resistance to the water can be slightly adjusted to accommodate the patient new improved ability and even prepare them for a further land based strength training.  Adjusting the difficulty in water therapy, two get the TBI survivor adjusted to land, can be done by working in more shallow water, and continuing to work in more shallow water over a period of time.

➢ Water therapy exercises helps the patients of a traumatic brain injury with pain management and overall discomfort.  Chronic pain conditions like spasticity, headaches, and joint pain are often relieved by this therapeutic exercise. The water decreases the level of perception of effort while engaging in the exercises thus making pain more bearable.  Water therapy is a useful program for patients dealing with unbearable or an acute pain from traumatic brain injury.

My name is Nolan McDonnell, A TBI survivor, and I have been documenting my TBI treatment journey for over three years now.  I found water therapy as an essential piece of my TBI treatment regimen and thought it was worth sharing.  With that said, a TBI treatment that has worked well for me might not work for somebody else.  If  you would like to contribute to this article, or add a TBI treatment of your own email me at

Canva - Close Up Photo of Swimming Rope (1)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s