For many people living with muscular dystrophy or a related neuromuscular condition, hydrotherapy can be essential in maintaining the best quality of life for the longest time possible.

Hydrotherapy is a therapy that involves the use of water for pain relief and treatment. It is different from swimming as it involves performing special exercises in a warm-water pool, and also very different from water aerobics as it focuses on controlled movements and muscle relaxation.

Hydrotherapy can be a highly effective form of therapeutic exercise for people with muscle-wasting conditions. Studies suggest that when patients with muscular dystrophy or related neuromuscular conditions receive physiotherapy in association with hydrotherapy, measurable improvement in the quality of daily living may be obtained. These benefits include:

  • a sense of freedom and a greater range of movements, which
    the weight of the water gives you
  • muscle relaxation and alleviation of pain, which the increased
    temperature of the water allows

  • greater range of movement and resistance provided by the water,
    which allows for exercises that can strengthen the muscles
  • improved flexibility.

How can you access hydrotherapy?

Many individuals with muscular dystrophy and related neuromuscular conditions have difficulty accessing regular hydrotherapy. In some places the NHS helps pay for hydrotherapy, while in others, access is distinctly more difficult.

Problems range from obtaining a referral from a health professional to gaining access to a facility with a hydrotherapy pool. Another issue is persuading a health professional of the benefits of hydrotherapy.

For many people with a muscle-wasting conditions, hydrotherapy has been outlined as an excellent therapy and many health professionals also believe it improves or maintains mobility, strength and flexibility and is a good form of aerobic exercise for cardiopulmonary fitness.

However, access to hydrotherapy is not straightforward and many people are not able to benefit from the positive effects hydrotherapy could have on their health.

Muscular Dystrophy UK has conducted research into the provision of hydrotherapy treatment in the UK for people with a muscle-wasting condition and published a report ‘Hydrotherapy in the UK - The urgent need for increased access’