By Kara Morales, PT, MS, ATRIC, MAq
Aquatic therapy isn’t always the first thought in someone’s mind when it comes to recovering from an injury. In fact, most people don’t even know it can be a good fit for healing their injury or reducing their pain. However, I am a huge advocate for aquatic therapy as an effective course of treatment, and I hope every physical therapy patient makes the time to learn about aquatic therapy as an option.
There are many types of certifications in the allied health industry, which can make it difficult for patients to know who is medically qualified to treat them. There are three major types of credentials when it comes to aquatic therapy: geriatrics, pediatrics and the newest certification—musculoskeletal—which I have worked hard to achieve.
In fact, I am proud to be the first in the country to earn this aquatic musculoskeletal certification, MAq, an award that involves an evidence-based progression requiring several hundred hours of therapy, education and course work. It’s the first aquatic certification to be awarded only to qualified therapists and their assistants, whereas geriatrics and pediatrics certifications may be provided to fitness instructors at a YMCA or local recreation center. While those other areas are based on good information, the musculoskeletal certification is the only one that assures patients they are being provided with true therapy.
When I first started with Rock Valley Physical Therapy, I wasn’t expecting aquatic therapy to be an area of interest for me. Typically, those techniques aren’t taught until post-graduate education. However, once I had the opportunity to engage with this aspect of therapy, it was incredibly rewarding to see the dramatic impact it can have in a person’s life.
Ever since that time, I’ve pursued aquatic therapy as my specialty, taking classes since 2006 and providing more than 3,000 hours of pool therapy. While spending so much time working towards this certification, I have become incredibly passionate about this area of evidence-based therapy that incorporations not only exercises but also manual therapy techniques that are critical for healing some injuries.
Because I’m so committed to the benefits of aquatic therapy, I’m incredibly interested in sharing my passion with others and encouraging them to consider this specialty. I’ve considered the possibility of teaching others during the accreditation process, and I’m excited to spread the word about aquatic therapy and how it can help our patients!