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The Tomah VA Medical Center, in partnership with Fort McCoy, is proud to announce the expansion of its aquatic physical therapy program for Veteran patients; the program is adding new classes to accommodate more Veteran patients. The aquatic physical therapy program, which has served almost 100 Veterans since it started, is held at Fort McCoy’s Rumpel Fitness Center.
The Tomah VAMC’s physical medicine and rehabilitation service department began offering aquatic physical therapy to Veteran patients in October 2013. The program utilizes the pool as a mechanism for conducting an aerobic exercise program for patients with chronic pain, in particular chronic back and lower extremity pain. Aquatic physical therapy is just one of many innovative treatment methods offered to Veterans dealing with chronic pain.
“The program is designed to help Veterans improve their function and bring exercise back into their life. Veterans with chronic pain who have found most workout regimens too difficult have been able to participate in aquatic physical therapy. The class incorporates aerobic and strength building exercises. The buoyancy of the water relieves pressure on their muscles and joints and allows Veterans to perform those beneficial exercises,” said Shannon Utesch, physical therapist at Tomah VAMC.
Aquatic physical therapy instructor and physical therapy assistant Todd Weibel said, “The Veterans love this program. They see a ripple effect of benefits. They increase their mobility, balance and their muscular endurance out of the water. Some have even reduced their blood pressure and relieved stress through continued participation in the aquatic physical therapy class. They also develop great friendships with their fellow classmates as they work together in the class.”
Veterans agree. Veteran James Markgraf said that he had dealt with horrible chronic pain for a long time. His constant pain disrupted his life to the point where he was unable to exercise and was finding going to work very difficult. Since starting aquatic physical therapy, his pain has diminished and he no longer needs his pain medications. “I was always in pain and used to take pain medications, like anti-inflammatories. Since I’ve started aquatic therapy, I don’t need the medicine anymore; my pain is actually going away. I’ve seen a lot of benefits.”
Tomah VAMC aquatic physical therapy program now offers four classes for Veterans every Monday and Thursday at 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. at the Rumpel Fitness Center at Fort McCoy. Veterans interested in participating should speak with their primary care provider at the Tomah VA Medical Center about this class and other treatment options for their chronic pain.