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Swim England supports campaign on importance of aquatic physiotherapy

Swim England is supporting a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of aquatic physiotherapy and the impact it can have on physical and mental wellbeing.

The campaign, launched by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), aims to keep facilities such as hydrotherapy pools open.

Closures have become more common and many have expressed concerns about the impact it is having on those who rely on these facilities.

This links closely with Swim England’s Decade of Decline report, launched last year, which states that almost 2,000 swimming pools could be lost forever by 2030.

One of those who will be affected by the closures is 15-year-old Dominic, who has cerebral palsy.

His condition affects all four of his limbs, meaning he has been in a wheelchair for most of his life.

Explaining the benefits he experiences from aquatic physiotherapy, Dominic said: “It makes me feel like I’ve actually done something, I feel like I can do more [in the water] than I can do on land.

“I can walk by myself, swim by myself, just do everything in the water by myself, it really promotes my independence.”

Hydrotherapy, also known as aquatic physiotherapy, represents a vital component of care for people with a range of debilitating health conditions.

Hydrotherapy pools, through their warm and buoyant water, help reduce the load on the joints and can make stretching and movement more effective.

The properties of the water can also help restore strength and re-educate the body to be able to perform important functional movements, helping some to then go on to be able to tolerate equivalent movements on land that were previously not possible.

Hydrotherapy can provide a safe and controlled environment for important rehabilitative exercise for people with complex conditions, delivered by trained physiotherapists.

It also helps to provide important respite from the pain and discomfort associated with disease and, for many, has a hugely beneficial impact on both physical and mental wellbeing.

Jacqueline Pattman, Dominic’s Aquatic Physiotherapist, is also chair of the Aquatic Therapy Association of Chartered Physiotherapy and sits on Swim England’s Swimming and Health Commission.

She said: “I think the main impact that aquatic physiotherapy has had on Dom is that it has both physical, physiological and psychosocial benefits.

“I’ve known him for 12-13 years and in that time I’ve seen him develop independence in the water, which is the main thing from a safety point of view, but also his confidence.”

See the freedom that he felt

Sarah, Dominic’s mum, explained that aquatic physiotherapy has given her son ‘freedom’.

She added: “He started aquatic physiotherapy when he was two and a half and it’s just amazing.

“Almost straight away it was his thing, he could see the freedom that he felt and he took to it really quickly – he was a bit of a water baby.

“He can do limited mat work, but to actually get him into positions, or to do exercise it’s very challenging for him and not enjoyable. It’d be devastating for him if he couldn’t get into a swimming pool and have aquatic therapy.

“Dom’s never been on any medication, he’s very rarely in pain, if at all, and he’s a healthy boy.

“I really think a lot of that is because he’s had that exercise being able to get into a swimming pool and have aquatic therapy.”

Benefits of being active in water

Andrew Power, Swim England’s water wellbeing specialist, says facilities and pool space need to be made available to ensure ‘everyone can experience the benefits of being active in water’.

“As the national governing body for swimming in England, our work has always been about helping people to learn how to swim, enjoy the water safely and compete in aquatic sports,” he said.

“However, there is an increasing recognition of the role we can play in supporting people to swim throughout the life course and enjoy better health.

“We want everyone to be able to experience the benefits of being active in water, but for those like Dominic, there needs to be a co-ordinated effort to ensure that specialist support such as aquatic physiotherapy and the pool spaces that allow these services to succeed, continue to be made available.

“We are working with the Aquatic Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy Alliance with a range of actions to secure this kind of support now, and for the future.”

Swim England’s Value of Swimming report in 2019 and the Decade of Decline report in 2021, were intended to influence and increase awareness of the importance of swimming to government and in healthcare professionals, as well as commissioners minds.

Alongside Swim England’s involvement with the Aquatic Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy Alliance, the national governing body is keen to work with partners across leisure, healthcare and charitable sectors who can help to safeguard the most valued aquatic spaces and services for the future, impacting on the health and wellbeing of the population now and in years to come.

For more information on the CSP campaign, visit csp.org.uk or to get involved with Swim England’s work around health and wellbeing, contact Andrew Power via [email protected].

Main image: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy YouTube