Are you Struggling with the Side Effects of Long COVID?

Aquatic Therapy may help.

Written by Lauren Wills, DPT


Aquatic Therapy, COVID, Exercise, Health & Wellness

Although the COVID-19 is no longer at the top of every news cycle or encompassing our every waking hour as it did from 2020 – 2022 there are still thousands of people suffering after being diagnosed with COVID.

Long COVID can lead to weakness, fatigue, joint or muscle pain, poor balance, and increases in psychological distress including anxiety and depression.  These symptoms can last weeks to months beyond their initial diagnosis. Up to 90% of patients report difficulty with their posture, stability and spatial orientation after COVID-19 infection which can make it difficult to participate in a traditional gym-based programs. (Lobanov, et al, 2022) It is both frustrating and disheartening for those working on their recovery.  Aquatic therapy is traditionally known for treating orthopedic conditions such as traumatic injuries, post-surgical recovery, sports injuries, and chronic pain, but for those suffering with long-term covid aquatic therapy may also be the solution to the problem.

There are four main properties of water used in aquatic therapy and each can all be utilized to improve the ability to move despite the presence of long-COVID symptoms.

  • Buoyancy: let’s you feel weightless allowing you to move more freely than on land (it helps to lift painful joints allowing you to move more freely than on land.)
  • Viscosity:   provides resistance as you move by changing speeds or directions to make the session more or less challenging.
  • Water Temperature:  a warm water pool like, the ones at HARTZ PT, produce increased blood flow to the muscles resulting in the relaxation of stiff muscles and joints.
  • Hydrostatic Pressure: think of this like wearing compression stockings that help to reduce swelling and improve circulation. The pressure of the water does the same thing and assists movements to make them less difficult.

A recent study found that aquatic therapy increased the ability to exercise and the endurance of patients suffering from long COVID-19, as well as those who have been hospitalized for the COVID -19 infection.   Results showed that after completing an aquatic therapy program patients were able to achieve:

  • Better balance
  • Improved posture
  • Less anxiety & depression (Lobanov, et al, 2022)

Another study showed that aquatic therapy intervention, in conjunction with traditional outpatient physical therapy, is a beneficial treatment for treating ICU acquired weakness post-COVID-19 infection.  (Barmatz, et al, 2021) 

Aquatic therapy is low impact and typical exercises include:

Water Walking:  Walking forward and backward in the pool is a simple way to walk with resistance. You may hold a kickboard or pool noodle to increase resistance.

Bicycle Kicks:  can help to build muscle in your legs. Using a pool noodle you may be asked to kick your legs as if you were riding a bike continuously for three to five minutes.

Balance:  A great form of balance training is standing on one leg in a pool especially if you are at a high risk of falling on land. You will have the use of the side of the pool or a float until you can balance yourself without the use of equipment.

If you or a loved one is suffering long COVID HARTZ Physical Therapy can help.  We offer aquatic therapy at our Lititz, Lancaster East, and Mount Joy locations.  If you have questions regarding the health benefits do not hesitate to call any of those offices for a FREE phone consultation.  We can see you without a physician’s referral and can typically schedule you for an appointment within 24 – 48 hours.  To learn more about our Aquatic Therapy program CLICK HERE.

Please note, that prior to beginning any exercise program after COVID-19 infection, you should be cleared by your medical doctor and be finished with any recommended quarantine time frames.