Floating in the pool, going horseback riding, or walking a dog may not exactly sound like the most formal methods of physical therapy and occupational therapy. However, when proven therapy techniques and the skill of a rehab therapist are combined with these activities, they become aquatic physical therapy, equestrian therapy (or therapeutic riding) and pet therapy! Keep reading to find out more about these different, yet fun forms of physical therapy!
3 Fun Forms of Physical Therapy
1. Aquatic Physical Therapy
The main idea of aquatic physical therapy is implementing physical therapy and conventional physical therapy goals in an aquatic environment. A water environment such as a swimming pool offers properties such as natural buoyancy and resistance that would require special equipment to achieve on dry land. According to the Academy of Aquatic Physical Therapy, this form of therapy aims to improve or maintain:
- Balance, coordination, and agility
- Body mechanics and postural stabilization
- Muscle strength, power, and endurance
For more information on the benefits of aquatic physical therapy, check out AquaticPT.org. Keep in mind that not everyone who benefits from traditional physical therapy will benefit from aquatic physical therapy. If a patient is considering aquatic PT, be sure to talk with them about the pros and cons, and determine whether or not it will be helpful for them.
2. Pet Therapy
Specially trained animals can be used in many different ways in therapeutic patient interventions. Many studies prove that petting an animal releases endorphins: the calming, miracle chemical that the human body produces. From a therapy standpoint, this helps physical therapists with rehabilitating patients who would rather not go for their daily walk around the nurse’s station. Aside from making patients happier and more at ease, pet-assisted therapy can yield both motor benefits and sensory benefits. Many therapists use animals, particularly dogs, to help patients with walking and balancing. Additionally, pet therapy can improve a patient’s depth perception and ability to track objects with their eyes. The following are some conditions that pet therapy can help treat:
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Developmental disorders
- Chronic pain
- Emotional and behavioral disorders
It’s no surprise that pets are therapeutic, even if it’s just from an emotional standpoint! Let’s be honest, there aren’t many of us who wouldn’t benefit from the company of a cat or dog.
3. Equestrian Therapy
Many physical therapists and occupational therapists recommend equestrian therapy to their patients. Also called “therapeutic riding,” this form of therapy usually takes place at special rehabilitation centers with specifically selected and trained horses. It has the potential to be very therapeutic for patients with brain or spinal cord injuries, as well as developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy. The motions of riding a horse imitate the same physical movements involved in walking and therefore can retrain the muscles of the trunk and upper body to move this way. Like pet therapy, equine-assisted therapy provides emotional support to patients. Not only that, but it’s also a lot more enjoyable for some patients than traditional forms of physical therapy. Instead of receiving therapy in a hospital or office, patients get to experience the great outdoors. For more information on equestrian therapy, visit the American Hippotherapy Association’s website!
Therapists with an urge to break free from hospital settings may find a whole new set of learning experiences in these fun forms of physical therapy, even if it’s just on a part time basis!
Have you or your patients tried any of these fun forms of physical therapy? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below!