A participant in the study performs an aquatic therapy routine with Ithaca College student Nick Davis. (Photo courtesy of Ithaca College.)

A participant in the aquatic training/treadmill training comparison study performs an aquatic therapy session with Ithaca College student Nick Davis. (Photo courtesy of Ithaca College.)

Which is more effective for stroke survivors—aquatic therapy or body-weight-supported treadmill training? Two Ithaca College physical therapy professors are conducting a study to determine the answer.

Sarah Fishel and Chris McNamara, assistant professors at Ithaca College, have designed a study that randomly places stroke survivors into one of three programs: treadmill training, aquatic therapy, or a combination of the two.

Participants in the study will undergo 1 month of treatment, followed by evaluations to measure what progress has been made, according to a media release from Ithaca College.

Aquatic and treadmill training are more similar than different, according to Fishel and McNamara. For example, they both provide body weight support.

If the study results prove to be similar as well, they could give both therapists and patients more choice when it comes to their therapy, per the release.

“An aquatic environment might be more accessible, and might be more preferred for some people,” Fishel says in the release.

There is significant scientific evidence showing that treadmill training can improve walking performance and balance for stroke survivors, in addition to decreasing their risk of falling. Aquatic therapy has shown positive results in clinical settings, but there are not many studies demonstrating its effectiveness, and none comparing it directly with treadmill training, the release explains.

“My clinical practice has demonstrated that there are just many, many opportunities for exercise and improvement and challenge in the aquatic environment,” says McNamara. “It’s just a matter of scientifically proving what we’ve seen clinically.”

Fishel and McNamara have been awarded a $2,500 grant from the American Physical Therapy Association to reimburse patients for their travel and to provide them up to $150 for their participation.

Those wishing to participate in the study must be at least 18 years old, have had a stroke more than 6 months ago, and be cleared for exercise by a physician. To participate, contact Fishel at [email protected] or (607) 274-5824.

[Source: Ithaca College]