New research on the benefits of water exercise and immersion is beginning to emerge for specific chronic medical conditions. As researchers hone in on evidence supporting the benefits of aquatic therapy for these special populations, more people may seek relief from debilitating symptoms by going into the pool.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. The disease causes severe damage to the white matter of the brain and spinal cord neurons, which leads to muscle weakness, chronic pain, loss of mobility, fatigue and cognitive decline.

Since there is no cure for MS, treatments focus on reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. Aquatic therapy allows MS patients to participate in physical exercise in ways they may not be able to on land.

Studies in the European Journal of Experimental Biology and the Persian Journal of Medical Sciences examined how aquatic exercise can help improve balance for adults with MS and found training in water to produce improvements.

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The European Journal of Experimental Biology examined 60 adult males, with a control group and aquatic training group. Balance was measured before and after eight weeks of aquatic sessions. At the end of the study, the aquatic training group showed a greater increase in balance abilities than the control group.

The Persian Journal of Medical Sciences examined the effect of water exercise training on functional balance in women with MS, ages 20 to 40. A sample of 40 women were divided into two groups -- a control and those receiving eight weeks of aquatic exercise sessions. Results showed significant improvements in the aquatic exercise group, which were not present in the control group.

In February, the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine published a review examining all articles in scientific journals from January 1, 2011 to April 30, 2016 studying water-based therapies and exercises for MS. Results of the review found that aquatic exercise programs helped improve quality of life and reduced fatigue, while aquatic cycling showed additional benefits in cardiovascular fitness. In two studies reviewed on aquatic aerobic exercise, results found improvements in muscle strength and walking endurance, as well as a reduction in depression.

In the individual studies and the review, researchers concluded that aquatic therapy does have benefits for MS and can safely be used as part of a treatment program for that population.

Special thanks to the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

This article was originaly written by Rena Goldman and appeared here.

Studies Referenced:

Barbar, A., Bahadoran, R., & Ghasemzadeh, Y. (2014). The effect of aquatic exercise on balance of adults with multiple sclerosis. European Journal of Experimental Biology, 4(1), 38–43. Retrieved from http://pelagiaresearchlibrary.com/european-journal-of-experimental-biology/vol4-iss1/EJEB-2014-4-1-38-43.pdf

Corvillo, I., Donoso, E., Armijo, F., Alvarez-Badillo, A., Armijo, O., Marvaver, F. Efficacy of aquatic therapy for multiple sclerosis: a systematic review. European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.23736/S1973-9087.17.04570-1.

Majdinasab, N., Nakhostin-Mortazavi, A., Bahadoram, M., Pouretezad, M., & Afraz, P. Effect of Aquatic
Therapy on Functional Balance in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial, 3Persian Journal of Medical Sciences (PJMS) (2016). Retrieved from http://www.persianjms.com/index.php/PJMS/article/view/42