The physical effect of ceasing maintenance hydrotherapy as a result of Covid-19 pool closure

Mrs Karen Benson1, Ms Ana Masara1, Mr Adrian Benson1, Dr Louise Greenstock2

1St. John Of God Hospital Warrnambool, Warrnambool, Australia, 2Western Alliance, Warrnambool, Australia

Hydrotherapy is a well-known form of specialised physiotherapy treatment. St. John of God Hospital Warrnambool provides group hydrotherapy for treatment of chronic health conditions. Patients attending hydrotherapy attend three monthly re-assessment sessions to ensure safety and relevance of aquatic treatment. The closure of hydrotherapy pools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response created an opportunity to measure the effect of removing aquatic therapy.

Ethics obtained (ref #1691). An evaluation of hydrotherapy files revealed patient demographics, and choice of outcome measures. A convenience sample of 100 patients returning to hydrotherapy after 9 month Covid-19 closure was then taken. Repeat outcome measures were performed.

Observational statistics were used to compare pre-covid closure outcome measures to post covid-19 measures. The majority of conditions were lower limb and back pain related, and demonstrated a 62% decrease in 6minute walk test, a 54% decrease in 30second sit to stand, and a 50% increase in ostwestry disability index.

This is part A in a longitudinal study. Part B will assess both the physical, functional and quality of life effects of group hydrotherapy over 1 year, and is in the phase of data collection.

Ceasing maintenance group hydrotherapy for nine months was associated with physical deconditioning.


Karen is a senior clinician physiotherapist with an interest in clinical research, and a passion for regional allied health excellence.

Karen graduated from The University of Melbourne with a bachelor of Physiotherapy (hons), holds a post graduate certificate in pelvic-floor physiotherapy and is currently studying a masters of pelvic health.

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