Hydrotherapy vs. conventional land-based exercise for improving walking and balance after stroke: a randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

Objective:

To investigate the effects of hydrotherapy on walking ability and balance in patients with chronic stroke.

Design:

Single-blind, randomized controlled pilot trial.

Setting:

Outpatient rehabilitation clinic at a tertiary neurological hospital in China.

Subjects:

A total of 28 participants with impairments in walking and controlling balance more than six months post-stroke.

Intervention:

After baseline evaluations, participants were randomly assigned to a land-based therapy (control group, n = 14) or hydrotherapy (study group, n = 14). Participants underwent individual sessions for four weeks, five days a week, for 45 minutes per session.

Main measures:

After four weeks of rehabilitation, all participants were evaluated by a blinded assessor. Functional assessments included the Functional Reach Test, Berg Balance Scale, 2-minute walk test, and Timed Up and Go Test.

Results:

After four weeks of treatment, the Berg Balance Scale, functional reach test, 2-minute walk test, and the Timed Up and Go Test scores had improved significantly in each group (P < 0.05). The mean improvement of the functional reach test and 2-minute walk test were significantly higher in the aquatic group than in the control group (P < 0.01). The differences in the mean values of the improvements in the Berg Balance Scale and the Timed Up and Go Test were not statistically significant.

Conclusion:

The results of this study suggest that a relatively short programme (four weeks) of hydrotherapy exercise resulted in a large improvement in a small group (n = 14) of individuals with relatively high balance and walking function following a stroke.

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