The Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District's physical therapy department is diving into a new program beginning this month.
According to Chris Gray, a physical therapist, the district starts its new aqua physical therapy program, held Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as another extension of its other treatment options.
Evan Rayner, interim chief executive officer for the healthcare district, announced the new program at a May 7 Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council breakfast.
Gray, one of the physical therapists at the district, said the new program provides a service that has not been available locally for years.
"Right now if someone wants to have aquatic physical therapy, they have to travel to Bakersfield or Lancaster," Gray said on May 28. "We're trying to provide that service so that people don't have to travel."
According to Gray, aquatic therapy is an extension of physical therapy that benefits some people over other related treatments.
"There are some patients that show better progress in water, such as if they have severe arthritis," Gray said.
He added that each lesson will have a physical therapist available.
"There's no reason why people would drive down either side of the hill when we can provide the same level of service or better," Gray said. "I would even argue that it's better for a patient to stay here and do land therapy than to drive down the hill for aquatic therapy."
However, he noted that some surgeons recommend aquatic therapy to their patients.
"They're driving an hour each way with all that abrasion on their bodies when they could be in town having that same kind of therapy," Gray said.
The advantage, he said, includes the ability to take strain off the compression in bones and joints that occur in normal gravity.
"If you have someone doing standing exercises on land in full gravity, they may not be able to complete the therapy," Gray said. "In a water environment you take away the gravity and they can respond better."
The aquatic physical therapy classes will take place at the Dye Natatorium Pool.
Gray said that therapy may include either individual or small groups. The tentative start date is June 10 but may require flexibility depending on the schedule with the pool.
Rayner, the district's interim CEO, echoed Gray's thoughts on aqua therapy.
"Any quality healthcare that is closer to home is better than a distant location due to conjoint therapy and family involvement," Rayner said on June 4.
He added that "aqua therapy is a proven modality that enhances patient recovery time, and outcomes that are not available through common modalities that have musculoskeletal kinetics involved."
He added the district was proud of the physical therapy department in general.
"Dr. Chris Gray's innovative approach to quality therapy and aligns with our new direction of innovation and quality healthcare for the Tehachapi area and is one of the indicators of why TVHD's rehab department is one of the best in Kern County," Rayner said.
Gray recommended calling the Tehachapi Hospital's physical therapy center at 823-3070 for more information.