Marine uses water buoyancy to relieve pain during physical therapyAugust 18, 2015
"I was on crutches for four months. You get miserable being on crutches for that long. I almost gave up. I didn’t think I’d walk again," said Christopher Loychik, a Marine stationed aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and a native of Cleveland, Ohio.
Loychik underwent surgery to repair a fractured fibula and a dislocated ankle. Following the surgery, doctors had directed that he not exceed a maximum of 10 percent of his body weight pressure on his injured leg.
"On land, at 10 percent body weight, you can’t even put your foot flat on the ground. In the pool, if you’re submerged to your collar bones, you’re 10 percent of your body weight. So, you can put your foot flat on the bottom and still be within the 10 percent threshold. We can start doing normal weight bearing, normal weight shifting, all as a precursor to normal walking," said Lynnette Schmidt, PT, DPT, aquatic physical therapist at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune (NHCL). "This is where you get that jump start (in physical therapy and recovery). The pain is going to be less, the amount of wear and joint load is less and these are where the aquatic therapy is really beneficial."
Within a few weeks of starting the Aquatic Physical Therapy program, offered through the Physical Therapy department at NHCL, Loychik saw a vast improvement. And within six weeks of beginning the aquatic therapy, Loychik took his first steps on land, without the aid of crutches.
"Being able to stand up normal in the water was a huge confidence booster. I’m actually standing, and then actually walking (in the water)," said Loychik. "I took my first steps on land, walking out of the pool."
Loychik is currently working on a walk to run program, conditioning him to be able to take the impact of running on his recovering leg.
"What we’re able to do in the pool, using the buoyancy or anti-gravity properties, is push the envelope of the agility and the running in a little to no pain environment," said Schmidt.
Schmidt explained that the water’s buoyancy properties and constant pressure provide resistance to physical therapy patients without overworking them too soon. The pressure also helps with swelling and gives the joints support, without restricting the range of motion.
Schmidt works with orthopedic post-operative patients to help speed their recovery, but says she that she would like to see the program grow to help more patients that may benefit from the aquatic physical therapy.