Community aquatic therapy for Parkinson's disease: an international qualitative study

Disabil Rehabil. 2021 Apr 7;1-10. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2021.1906959. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: To explore the opinions of people living with Parkinson's disease about access to and participation in community aquatic therapy.

Methods: Focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with people living with Parkinson's disease in Ireland (n = 24) and Australia (n = 10). All discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and thematically analysed.

Results: Four main themes were identified. Primarily, participants were optimistic about their reasons for choosing aquatic therapy and found it beneficial to their health and well-being. Optimal components of aquatic therapy identified were access to individually tailored aquatic programs, completed as a minimum once a week, at a moderate to high-intensity level, and guided by a credentialed instructor. Fear was a significant barrier for a small proportion of participants and was linked to water competence, past experiences, and fall risk associated with the aquatic environment. Participants identified a strong need for education and increased awareness about aquatic therapy benefits to promote greater engagement.

Conclusion: Aquatic therapy is a popular exercise choice for people with Parkinson's disease, especially in the early to middle disease stages. Considering the views of people living with Parkinson's disease can aid the design and implementation of interventions and future aquatic research internationally.Implications for RehabilitationAquatic therapy is emerging as an effective physiotherapy approach for managing motor and non-motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease.Little is known regarding community-based aquatic therapy programs from the perspectives of people living with Parkinson's disease internationally.People with Parkinson's disease may benefit from timely information about the unique benefits, prerequisites, and local aquatic therapy facilities to promote greater uptake of aquatic programs.Tailored aquatic therapy interventions delivered within a group setting by a credentialed healthcare professional may increase long-term adherence.

Keywords: Aquatic therapy; Parkinson’s disease; exercise; participation; perception; physiotherapy.