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Aquatic Therapy at Boston Sports Medicine

Posted Jul 21 2011 5:00am

You might remember my recent injury that left me wearing a boot on my left leg for a few weeks. It was not a pleasant experience, but at the same time I know I am incredibly lucky that it ended up being a minor setback and healing quickly.


I felt so fortunate to have been  back to running about 4 weeks post-marathon (a.k.a onset of the injury). If I had been left unable to run longer, it would have been much harder to deal with mentally. I thought cross-training would be the only option.

Little did I know, had my injury continued, I could have continued to run…on an underwater treadmill. When Kathy at Boston Sports Woman told me about Aquatic Therapy at Boston Sports Medicine and asked me to try it out while she filmed a video, I could not turn it down.

Boston Physical Therapy

Boston Sports Medicine is a physical therapy center, specializing in sports rehabilitation, orthopedic rehabilitation, post-surgical rehabilitation and aquatic therapy. They have been treating a wide range of athletes and non-athletes in the Boston area since 1999.

“Aquatic physical therapy at Boston Sports Medicine Allston is performed in one of our two private $75,000 heated  Hydroworx  salt water pools. Our pools are kept at 90 degrees and are sanitized with  sodium bromide . Exercise is prescribed by a licensed physical therapist. Techniques for aquatic therapy are diverse and tailored to the individual patient and their injury. Water therapy can be performed at various depths, and may include weight-bearing or non-weight-bearing exercises using special equipment such as flotation and resistive devices.”

To be honest, I loved everything about this place.


The main space included this open area, as well as private offices. Up the stairs is the entrance to the pool area, which is kept much warmer and houses the two Hydroworx pools.


We ( Kathy , Stephanie and I) got to meet Dr. Michael Velsmid, the founder of Boston Sports Medicine. He answered our many questions with so much knowledge and patience. He also asked us all about our past/current injuries and issues as runners. Michael wanted to introduce us to Aquatic Therapy, and let us try out a few different exercises he might do with patients.


In addition to runners, Boston Sports Med. sees ballerinas and other athletes suffering from injuries, people with chronic neck and back pain or arthritis, and more.

From what I gathered, the benefits of aqua therapy for injured runners include:

  • Running (in water) immediately without doing harm / making the injury worse
  • Running with no joint pain, even when you have substantial pain on land
  • Doing other strength training exercises that you may not be able to do on land
  • Increased circulation
  • Increased range of motion and balance
  • My favorite one: If you were up to running 12 miles as a long run, got injured and started aqua therapy immediately, you would likely be able to go back to running 12 miles right after your injury healed. I found it pretty awesome that aqua therapy could help you maintain such a major base!

From BSM website: “Warm salt water is analgesic and supports the body and reduces stress to the joints so you can strengthen and condition your muscles even as your injury heals.”



Getting in this water was so easy, with it being around 90 degrees. My muscles felt instantly relaxed. The belt you see on the bottom of the pool is, in fact, a treadmill. The metal bar in the water is removable, and can be held onto while running. There is a small touch pad on the side that allows you to control the speed of the belt and the jets (if you choose to turn them on).

The treadmill goes up to 7.5 mph, and I had fun playing around with it and increasing my speed while trying to actually run (and not just let the belt spin underneath my feet.) Michael had me run sideways and backwards as well. He also had me turn on the jets and try to run, which was just comical. I did not stand a chance against that current. Running in the water may be much less impact, and less cardiovascularly demanding, but fighting the resistance of the water is a not easy!

The feeling of running on the pool treadmill is difficult to explain. It feels like regular running, in that your body is moving in the same way and your feet hit the bottom. But you are not breathing nearly as hard and it is obviously much less impact when your foot does strike the belt, since the water is supporting most of your weight. It feels light and smooth, yet still challenging for the muscles.

Besides just running (my favorite part), I also got to strap on these fins to my ankles and do some leg exercises, to provide extra resistance. I could feel my muscles working to push against the water, and I know it would be a quality workout. In fact, I think this is what made me a little sore for my 13 miles the next day, but it was worth it!

Stephanie got to rock the foam dumbbells for upper body strength training in the water.

We also got to use a high pressure hose underneath the water to massage our muscles – it felt so good!

After the session, we did a brief Q&A session with Michael. I will post it when I receive it. He obviously cares very much for his patients and has extensive knowledge and experience working with athletes.

I would absolutely recommend Boston Sports Medicine for any runner who is dealing with an injury and would like to be able to keep up their running endurance as much as possible and remain strong while their injury heals.

* Thank you to Kathy for most of these pictures!

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