By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Floating in the pool, going for a horse ride 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. Attention therapists, traveling physical therapists and travel occupational therapists looking for a fresh way to apply your skills and expertise: One or more of these practice areas may be for you.
Aquatic Physical Therapy
The basic premise is physical therapy with conventional physical therapy goals, carried out 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. Physical therapy in water benefits a variety of conditions including musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and more in all ages of patients.
Specially trained animals are used many different ways in therapeutic patient interventions. Overall, it has been proven the petting an animal releases endorphins, the calming, miracle chemical produced by the human body. 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. Therapists have found that stubborn patients have a much harder time saying no to a dog than to them. Nothing against the therapists I’m sure.
Occupational therapists and physical therapists are a key component of equestrian therapy, also called “therapeutic riding.” This form of therapy, carried out at special rehabilitation centers with specifically selected and trained horses, has been proven very therapeutic in 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.
Music therapy has also been known to help special needs children improve their memory attention and motor abilities.
Therapists with a taste for learning something new and an urge to break free from hospital settings, even if just on a part time basis, may find a whole new set of learning experiences in these cutting edge forms of treatment by beginning a career as a traveling physical therapist.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.