5 Spectacular Benefits of Hydrotherapy for People with PMLD

Side view of wet-haired adult woman with eyes closed in bubbled water in spaWritten by Peter Rossi, in collaboration with Dr David McConaghy.


Nowadays, in the circles of doctors and medical experts, the therapeutic approach of hydrotherapy doesn’t go unheeded. It is based on warm water immersion and controlled movements, and it’s known for having many benefits for those facing the complex challenges of PMLD.

“Hydrotherapy can be used in any situation where someone has an injury or ailment that causes discomfort,” says doctor David McConaughey, who has been deeply engaged in scientific research on the effects of this form of therapy.

If you’ve always been keen on spending time in the soothing water and would like to try such a type of therapy but simply don’t know where to start, a high-quality hot tub is exactly what you need! Therefore, Hot Tub Reviews by the professional hot tub designer Peter Rossi might assist you in choosing the perfect option.

But if you want to take a deep dive into the topic of how hydrotherapy can help people with PMLD, this article is for you. Here, we’ll bring light to how the therapeutic properties of water, buoyancy, and sensory experiences can lead to muscle relaxation, sensory stimulation, pain management, cardiovascular health, social interaction, and emotional well-being.


What is PMLD?

PMLD, or Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities, is a term used to describe a severe and complex level of disability. According to fundamental studies, individuals with PMLD are profoundly limited in their understanding because of their substantial intellectual disability, which is shown by an estimated IQ of less than 20 [1]. Due to this fact, it is often extremely difficult for them to communicate with others.

Besides, people with PMLD usually may have multiple physical disabilities, including hearing, vision, and movement impairments as well as other issues, such as epilepsy and autism. Most members of them are unable to move without help, and many others have complicated medical conditions that require intensive care [1]. However, even though people with such a diagnosis face significant difficulties, it is important to recognize their inherent value and potential for growth and development.


  1. Improved Muscle Relaxation

When individuals with PMLD step into the warm water, the magic of hydrotherapy begins since the principle of buoyancy starts to work. Scientifically, buoyancy is the force exerted by a fluid that opposes the weight of an immersed object.

In simple words, when you’re in the water, the weight of your bones and muscles is reduced because the water practically supports your body. Such a process tends to reduce swelling and promote muscle relaxation [2]. It can be especially beneficial for people with PMLD, who often experience muscle stiffness and tension.

Also, let’s not forget that hydrotherapy sessions often involve carefully structured movements and exercises. Such movements take advantage of the water’s viscosity and resistance. When individuals move against this resistance in the water, their muscles engage in isometric and isotonic contractions, which stimulate muscle strengthening and flexibility.

Isometric contractions involve muscle tension without changes in muscle length, while isotonic ones make muscles shorten or lengthen while they are under tension. Both types contribute to improved muscle tone and mobility.


  1. Enhanced Sensory Stimulation

The interesting thing about hydrotherapy is that it engages multiple senses simultaneously. So, as soon as individuals with PMLD are immersed in warm water, they meet a whole range of sensory delights.

Firstly, the temperature of warm water can have a soothing effect on the nervous system, helping them to calm and relax. Also, various sounds of water in motion, like splashes and bubbling, can help people with PMLD tune into their surroundings. And, of course, the designs of hydrotherapy settings are often very aesthetically pleasant, and they can enhance the overall sensory experience as well.

Also, for people with PMLD, who may have heightened or diminished sensory responses, hydrotherapy can be an effective way to help them find a balance. The sensory input in a controlled environment can promote relaxation and improve sensory regulation.

Besides, it’s been proved by a lot of studies that hydrotherapy sessions lead to increased alertness and a sense of calmness in individuals with PMLD. For instance, in one of the studies conducted in 2011 with the participation of a patient with Parkinson’s disease, it was revealed that the patient got significant improvement in postural stability after aquatic therapy [3].


  1. Pain Management and Comfort

Many individuals with PMLD experience a considerable decrease in pain, and hydrotherapy sessions are capable of bringing them overall comfort.

How does it all work? Well, when immersed in warm water, the blood circulation increases, improving blood flow to sore or tense muscles and therefore reducing pain and discomfort. Moreover, the buoyant force of the water counteracts gravity, and due to this, it helps to reduce the pressure on joints, offering a reprieve from daily discomfort. This is especially beneficial for individuals with conditions who constantly suffer from joint pain.

Furthermore, in 2008, there was a research which contained the comparative analysis of water-based and land-based exercises for their ability to reduce pain. Eventually, it turned out that water-based exercise was superior to land-based exercise for relieving pain before and after walking [4].

Except for the physical benefits, hydrotherapy helps with stress reduction. For individuals with PMLD who may experience high levels of stress due to their condition, the calming properties of warm water can be a real salvation.


  1. Improved Circulation and Cardiovascular Health

One of the key factors in hydrotherapy’s impact on circulation is hydrostatic pressure, which is the force exerted on the body by the water. This pressure increases with the depth of immersion and, therefore, promotes better blood circulation throughout the body. It can be especially beneficial for people with PMLD who may face challenges related to blood flow.

Also, the warm water used in hydrotherapy sessions contributes to cardiovascular health. It causes blood vessels to expand, which lowers blood pressure and reduces strain on the heart. Such a gentle cardiovascular workout can improve heart function over time.

All these facts can be confirmed by the results of numerous studies. In particular, it was scientifically proven that various forms of hydrotherapy can improve cardiac function and also increase peripheral circulation in cerebral palsy [5].

What is also interesting is that hydrotherapy exercises performed in water are truly a unique form of cardiovascular exercise. The buoyant water reduces the impact on joints and, at the same time, provides resistance to movements. It gives a person who performs these exercises an excellent opportunity to strengthen the heart and improve overall cardiovascular fitness.


  1. Social Interaction and Emotional Well-being

Beyond its physical benefits, hydrotherapy gives individuals with PMLD a wonderful opportunity to develop the social and emotional aspects of their health. Increased engagement, reduced anxiety, and a greater sense of belonging – all of these can be observed thanks to the effects of hydrotherapy. How does it work?

First of all, hydrotherapy sessions often take place in a group setting, where people can interact with their peers and therapists. Moreover, hydrotherapy usually provides various activities where participants can engage with one another. It gives people with PMLD many opportunities to communicate and form strong connections.

Secondly, given the fact that individuals with PMLD sometimes are very limited in expressing their emotions, hydrotherapy can help to solve this problem as well. The thing is that the combination of the warm, calming water and the support of therapists can create a sense of security and trust. Therefore, such a pleasant environment can lead to increased emotional well-being.

And finally, since PMLD sometimes leads to feelings of isolation, hydrotherapy sessions can make people with such struggles feel real support and love. As a result, it can reduce these feelings of isolation and enhance emotional well-being.


In Conclusion

As you might have already got it, hydrotherapy makes true wonders. This special kind of treatment uses water to provide relief and comfort. It can be incredibly beneficial for a lot of people, and in particular for those who suffer from PMLD. It can help them improve muscle relaxation, sensory stimulation, pain management, blood circulation, cardiovascular health, and many more.

Yet, hydrotherapy is more than just physical therapy; it is a huge source of social interactions and emotional well-being. It provides individuals with PMLD the opportunity to communicate with their peers, build connections, and find joy in the warm embrace of water.

As you’ve learned about the five spectacular benefits of hydrotherapy for people with PMLD, you can now understand that this therapeutic approach is not a simple treatment. It is a way to a better and more comfortable quality of life.


  1. Boxall K. Involving people with profound and multiple learning difficulties in research: barriers and possibilities. Disability Studies Conference, University of Lancaster, September 2010. 24 p.
  2. Eversden L, Maggs F, Nightingale P, Jobanputra P. A pragmatic randomized controlled trial of hydrotherapy and land exercises on overall well-being and quality of life in rheumatoid arthritis. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2007;8:23.
  3. Vivas J, Arias P, Cudeiro J. Aquatic therapy versus conventional land-based therapy for Parkinson’s disease: An open-label pilot study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2011;92:1202- 10.
  4. Silva LE, Valim V, Pessanha AP, Oliveira LM, Myamoto S, Jones A, et al. Hydrotherapy versus conventional land-based exercise for the management of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: A randomized clinical trial. Phys Ther 2008;88:12- 21.
  5. Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body. North American Journal of Medical Sciences. Ujire, Karnataka, May 2014. Volume 6, Issue 5. 11 p.


Author Bio:

Peter Rossi, an expert in the pool and hot tub industry and Dr David McConaghy  is a professional psychiatrist.




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