• The Harlie Russell Team

Walking on Water

I wrote earlier about the different types of therapy available to children with cerebral palsy. I wanted to save this one for it's own special mention. That is, hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy is no big secret. Many children and adults use hydrotherapy for different reasons. For cerebral palsy, it can be one of the best types of therapy. This is because the water helps them become weightless and move in a way they wouldn't normally be able to move on land. The pool, usually heated to 34°, has the benefit of increasing circulation therefore reducing muscles spasms and relieving pain. The resistance of the water also aides in developing muscle strength.

Harlie started hydrotherapy quite soon after her diagnosis. She was in a heated pool specially designed for therapy which was equipped with rails, ramps and a special plastic wheelchair which was able to be used in the water. Harlie loved it immediately. She enjoyed the feeling of weightlessness and being able to freely kick her legs or even stand in the pool. The heated pool was also helping to relax her muscles throughout her whole body. Harlie beamed.

Within a matter of months, Harlie began to make physical gains in the water. She was able to pull herself up by holding a railing on the side of the pool and stand. This was something she was not able to achieve on a hard floor because she simply didn't have the strength. In physiotherapy, Harlie would often be pushed to her physical limits which would cause pain hours or days after the session. With hydrotherapy, Harlie was pain free, meaning she could tolerate longer, more frequent sessions resulting in better outcomes.

Harlie continued hydrotherapy upon her return from the USA post SDR surgery and the results were amazing. Harlie was able to stand for over 1 minute by holding onto the railing, something she is still learning on a hard surface. Hydrotherapy has given Harlie and many others like her, a chance at a type of freedom they wouldn't otherwise experience. With the long list of benefits, I consider this one of the most valuable types of therapy for cerebral palsy sufferers.


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Brisbane QLD, Australia

©2017 BY THE HARLIE RUSSELL FOUNDATION LTD. Photo credits Linda Wiseman & Shaun Clifford