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AquaStretch Principles, Foundations and Preliminary Research

AquaStretch Principles, Foundations and Preliminary Research
Lori Sherlock, MS, ATRIC, AEA Fitness Specialist, CSCS
March 12, 2014

Editor’s note:  This is an edited transcript of a live webinar.  It is advised that you download supplemental course materials prior to starting this text to ensure understanding of material and assist in answering answers to the quiz. 


>> Lori Sherlock:  I hope that everybody here is really interested and excited to learn about AquaStretchTM.  It is a fairly new technique for aquatic therapy specialists, therapy specialists, and fitness individuals.  I want to start with a quote.  There is a Cleveland Clinic trained neurologist who has a lot of positive things to say about AquaStretchTM.  His primary focus is on chronic pain.  He has been sending patients that he has not been able to treat effectively to individuals that are using AquaStretchTM for treatment with a great amount of success.  He has given us a lovely quote about AquaStretchTM.  He said that “AquaStretchTM may be the most important new wellness modality developed in the last 50 years.”  Then, Dr. Royal, Medical Director of the Nevada Clinic, said that “AquaStretchTM is a breakthrough in pain management.”   He himself is an AquaStretchTM client.


What is AquaStretchTM?

AquaStretchTM is a one-on-one, assisted, stretching and myofascial release technique performed in shallow water using weighted resistance.  What is interesting is that in a client’s first session, they get into the water and the therapist gets feedback from the client.  One of the primary pieces of information that a therapist needs to get across to the client is that communication is going to make for a very effective treatment.  The more that the client shares with the therapist about how they are feeling, about good pain/bad pain, the more they are going to get out of treatment.  The therapist will ask the client to use their intuitive movement.  Basically, the client is told to move if they feel the need to move.  This may sound really strange since a therapist usually has very exact movements that they want the client to perform.  In this type of exercise, intuitive movement is used, so the idea is that they move in whatever way that feels good or the way that the body cues them to move.

AquaStretchTM also differs from myofascial release in that it utilizes the aquatic environment’s properties.  Upon immersion, particularly in warm water, blood flow increases to the muscles by 50% or more and physical stress and load on the body, or the weight-bearing on the joints, is going to be extremely reduced.  It is basically a zero gravity event that the client experiences.  The buoyancy, increase in blood flow, increase in flexibility, and the reduction in joint compression will allow the participant to have increased movement with reduced restriction.  They will be able to get into positions that they would not necessarily be able to get into when on land.  That is exciting and a key factor in the effectiveness of this particular modality.

If the client is using their own intuitive movement, then what is the practitioner doing?  The practitioner is following and accenting the movement.  They may also coach individuals, particularly through their first time in treatment.  A first-time participant in AquaStretchTM is going to have a hard time comprehending what they are supposed to do.  They must be coached through until they get used to the technique. 

The creation of AquaStretchTM is credited to George Eversaul.  Dr. Eversaul holds a position at UNLV in Nevada.  He is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and has a great deal of hands-on experience in caring for different types of patients.  He started using the concepts of myofascial release in the water and created a wellness and fitness modality.  It is seen as a more holistic approach because it caters towards the fitness and wellness aspect of treatment.  It is a full body approach that physical therapists, occupational therapists, or licensed therapists in general, can take to a whole different level.  Once the basic techniques are learned, they can be expanded upon. 

I have had the honor of working with Physical therapist, Jessica Huss.  She has had a tremendous amount of success in her private practice with AquaStretchTM to the point that patients who are having issues with insurance gravitate towards using an AquaStretchTMsession as the first try before tapping into the resource of insurance reimbursement.  That is a great thing to think about for those of you who are in private practice.


How Does AquaStretchTM Work?

AquaStretchTM is a 10-step procedure that can be extrapolated upon.  Therapists have a great understanding of physiology and anatomy, which will assist, in the level of effectiveness that can be achieved with this technique.  The purpose of this technique is to release myofascial adhesions.  Adhesions can form between the muscle fibers, the tendons, ligaments, nerves, organs, lymph glands, blood vessels, or anywhere within the body that has fascia.  In other words, they can form anywhere.  They are temporary hardenings particularly around injured or overused areas.  They form because our body is trying to heal.  It is as if it is saying, “Okay, I want you to stop moving so much so that you can rest, rejuvenate, and heal.  I am going to build this structure and hardened these fascial adhesions so that your movement is restricted, and I can heal.”  In a healthy body, once the healing has occurred, exercise and basic movement will release those adhesions.  These myofascial adhesions may not release on their own in individuals that have overuse or repetitive patterns and then prematurely use an injured area.  The same can be said in people who are genetically predisposed or in those who suffer from under use.  We are assisting in breaking up those adhesions with AquaStretchTM. ...

lori sherlock

Lori Sherlock, MS, ATRIC, AEA Fitness Specialist, CSCS

Lori A. Sherlock is an assistant professor in the School of Medicine at West Virginia University.  She coordinates and teaches the aquatic therapy curriculum within the division of Exercise Physiology and is proud to state that it is the only one like it in the nation.  Lori is an Aquatic Exercise Association trainer and a member of the Aquatic Exercise Association’s Research Committee.  She contributes often to the AKWA magazine and has a great interest in furthering the field of aquatics through research.  Lori has also presented for the APTA, NSCA, International Aquatic Fitness Conference as well as the World Aquatic Health Conference.

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