Start of Aquatic Therapy – Physical Therapy in the Pool

After my six-week follow up visit for L5 S1 laminectomy surgery, I was prescribed H2O therapy.  That means I am going to do my rebuilding in the pool.  It is also known as aquatic therapy.

First things First – An Evaluation

Based on recommendations and proximity, I called Pacific Water Therapy.  The first step is really to check with insurance.  Insurance may be the worst part about this whole process.  I pay a nice premium for top insurance through an employer with a very good health plan.  Still, they make it very painful even once the pain from the injury is done.

Once we got the clearance from my insurance (Pacific Physical Therapy helped a lot with that), they quickly scheduled me in for an appointment.  Getting to the appointment was the first time that I had driven in 7 weeks.  They are right next to the Chuck-e-Cheese that my kids go to, so they were easy to find.

Full physical therapy marks the next phase in my recovery.  The rebuilding.  I’ve lost 12 pounds sitting around letting the disc heal.  The rebuilding will be about getting me stable and back to my life.  The pool is an excellent way to do this in a low impact manner.

I’m sure I rambled on for a long time about how I got into this mess, my current state and that I’m down and scared emotionally.  I said that obviously my goals are to get back to normal, but also to get back on my bike.  The therapist told me that where I am now, I am looking at a 90% chance of a full recovery.  He also said that he is a marathon runner and had similar disc herniations that put him out for a while, but he is back now.  While I didn’t like to hear he had been through it, I was very comforted to hear a success story and know he understood.

With my goal of riding again, we set off on a plan for me to be on land one day a week and in the pool one day a week.

Lessons from the Evaluation Visit

After being in the back brace for 6 weeks, I was very scared to bend in any way.  To me, that meant leaning over.  Well, we spent a little time on how to properly sit down, stand up and pick something off the floor.  Even after going though a lot of that before, I had forgotten how.  Similar to how I forgot to walk I suppose.

Using that coaching, I was able to get on the floor and pick up a few things without causing any stress or pain in my back.  That was a major relief.  Already a step in the right direction.

Beyond the physical part of physical therapy, there is some mental learning and rehabilitation.  Getting some confidence back with simple things around the house has been very nice.

First Session in the Pool

The pool part of the facility is nice.  Pacific Water Therapy shares with Gold’s Gym, so that isn’t a surprise.  There are two pools; one is a normal “cold” pool for laps, and there is also the heated “therapy” pool.

To get started, I was fitted with a waist floatation belt. I eased into the water and slowly made my way to the deep end.  I started by just keeping myself in good posture and used a cycling motion to move around the pool.  That was trickier than I expected.  The flotation belt made me actively work to keep posture.

The belt looked something like this one from

water aerobics floatation belt

The cycling motion was my warm up.  Next I moved to some leg motion exercises while holding the wall.  Again, they were tricky.  I could feel my muscles doing things that felt foreign.  In reality, those were simple motions I had forgotten how to do.

Then we kicked it up a notch again.  Away from the wall with hand floats.  I mixed in some coordination  moves with the opposite hand and leg doing things at the same time.  Wow, I felt like I was always about to tip over.  At the same time I was getting very tired.  My core and back were working for the first time in months.  And realistically, it was probably the first time in much longer than that.

I continued with a number of different exercises.  They give you a work out for sure.  I was expecting a physical challenge, but I also got a mental one.  I really had to pay attention in order to not tip over and keep my posture.  As I got tired with one exercise, it became harder and harder to keep form.

What do I think of Aqua Therapy?

My first impression is very good.  Being in the water felt good.  I felt like I was working my muscles and I was challenged to use form naturally.

I know that there are two main things I’m doing.  One is rebuilding my physical structure.  The other is re-learning how to use my muscles.  I have lost a lot, but mainly I’ve lost connection between my brain and muscles.  This was a good first session for sure and I look forward to more work in the pool.

Morning After Update

I’m tired.  A good tired, but very tired.  I was a little sore on my early morning walk, but it was an ok walk.  I’ve got some pain in my left hip, but I think that is from sore and tired muscles.  I fell asleep early and slept hard; a very nice change from restless sleeping.


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