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March 19, 2008 > Outpatient Rehabilitation: Aqua Therapy to Hand Therapy - and More!

Outpatient Rehabilitation: Aqua Therapy to Hand Therapy - and More!

Doctors often recommend physical therapy and occupational therapy for people who suffer an orthopedic injury or a chronic condition such as arthritis or persistent lower back pain. At the Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, the goal of the skilled staff is to provide the most up-to-date treatments and help patients return to their normal activities or increase their physical abilities.

Among the many treatments available at the center are the increasingly popular "aqua therapy" in a heated pool and hand therapy to treat problems in the complicated structures of the hand and lower forearm.

Aqua Therapy

"Aqua therapy involves doing exercises in a pool heated to 92 degrees," says Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center Director Michael Scates, MS, PT.

"The warm water itself is therapeutic, easing the patient's pain and relaxing the muscles," he explains. "Also, when you exercise in water, your body doesn't feel the effects of gravity as much because you're floating - a state called 'buoyancy' - so the workouts are low-impact and don't put as much strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments."

Another benefit of aqua therapy is that water provides more resistance than air. "Exercising in water is somewhat like working with a weight-training machine," Scates adds. "Water provides resistance to your movements, which helps build muscle tone and increases your range of motion. We often start patients out just walking around the pool, gradually adding weights to increase the resistance."

Scates notes that aqua therapy is ideal for a variety of orthopedic problems, including chronic back pain, hip and knee pain, and even shoulder problems. "Aqua therapy is particularly useful for older patients with chronic conditions such as arthritis," he says, " but we also use it to treat younger patients with injuries."

Unlike other facilities that offer only group classes in water exercise, Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center provides one-on-one therapy, with individualized treatments designed for each patient's specific needs. "Aqua therapy is proven to be very effective, especially for patients who suffer from chronic problems," Scates says. "It may even help them avoid surgery, in some cases."

Hand Therapy

Hand therapy is designed for people who suffer hand, wrist or elbow pain resulting from traumatic injuries, repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or degenerative diseases such as arthritis. At Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, occupational therapists work closely with experienced hand surgeons such as Dr. Basil Besh and Dr. Prasad Kilaru to develop treatments specifically designed to address individual patients' hand-function deficits.

"Hand therapy can relieve patients' pain and help them regain the ability to perform daily tasks that are often taken for granted, such as buttoning a shirt, tying shoes or typing on the computer," says Scates. "Treatments include exercises for stretching, strengthening, improving the range of motion and recovering fine-motor skills.

"We use techniques such as inserting patients' hands in paraffin wax to insulate and warm the hands and to make the joints move more easily," he adds. "We also use ultrasound to reduce inflammation of the joints and help loosen adhesions - scar tissue that attaches to the muscles. Electrical stimulation also can relieve pain and inflammation in the hands. In addition, we can apply splints to immobilize a patient's hand or wrist after surgical procedures to allow time for healing before rehabilitation begins."

Physician referral is required for all patients at Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, but the center's staff will work closely with physicians to ensure the proper therapy referrals are made. The facility is conveniently located at 3575 Beacon Avenue in Fremont, just a couple of blocks away from Washington Hospital. For more information about the center's programs and services, please call (510) 794-WORC (9672) or visit, click on "About Us", select "Our Facilities," and choose "Outpatient Rehabilitation Center" from the drop-down menu.

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