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.