Live Well, a successful Physical Therapy practice in Grand Island Nebraska, purchased a SwimEx 1000T when they first launched their business in January of 2008. Very shortly, Barb Engberg, PT, and Beth Bamesberger, PT, were using it with a majority of their patients.
“When we were designing our business plan, aquatic therapy was a niche not addressed in our market area. In order to stand out from the competition, we decided to make aquatic therapy and women’s health central to our service offerings,” Barb explains.
Barb and Beth did their homework, researching pools, therapies and options.
“We were looking for the most therapeutic pool, used by most physical therapists. SwimEx is a very common brand in the Midwest, and I was familiar with it from a course in Aquatic Therapy I had taken,” recalls Beth.
They both point to SwimEx’s laminar flow for a smooth, even current and flexible workstations as key deciding factors. They also wanted a larger pool, and the 1000T is the largest SwimEx built with a water surface of 14 by 10 feet. The extra room enables Live Well to maximize programs and individually tailor the aquatic environment for each patient. It also allows for multi-patient therapy and group classes.
In their research, Beth and Barb felt SwimEx was a better choice than Endless, with a higher flow rate (variable up to 30,000 gallons per minute vs. 5000) and a wider current (six feet compared to 21”).
“In addition, SwimEx designed the whole thing for me, from installation to workstations, so I didn’t have to,” Beth says. “I didn’t have to sit down and figure out how big a pit we’d need and if it needed a concrete floor. SwimEx’s service and expertise really supports their product.”
Treating a wide range of cases
The SwimEx is a popular tool at Live Well. “We use it for nearly everything,” Beth says. “Post surgical rehab, total hip and knee replacements, back injuries, ACL injuries, arthritis, MS, women’s health, lymphedema in breast cancer patients, and more. Pain specialists also refer many patients to us.”
One of Barb’s patient, a 68 year-old woman, had undergone a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. She was suffering from lymphedema (a painful buildup of fluid that causes swelling and decreased range of motion) as a side effect of the treatment, and was already using a pump at home and wearing a compression garment.
She began treatment with Live Well in February, 2008, beginning with drainage, later adding aquatic therapy three times a week for a month. Upon discharge to self-care, the edema had decreased 8.2 centimeters and the patient reported a return to full range of shoulder motion.
“We used aquatic exercise focused on a specific sequence for lymphedema patients, much like massage is used to push the fluid through the lymph system,” Barb explains. “We’d start with exercises for shoulder mobility to scapula, then elbow, wrist and hand, then return by the same route.”
One of Beth’s patients, a 65 year-old woman, was referred to Live Well by a pain specialist. The patient had an acute onset of lumbar and radiating right lower extremity pain due to disc disease compounded by moderate obesity.
“When she came to us, she needed assistance getting in and out of the car, and could only walk with a four-wheeled walker for less than a minute and a half. Her pain was an eight out of ten,” Beth explains. “She was a heavy lady and the water made the exercise easier, so we designed a program for her that was entirely aquatic-based. It included bilateral lower extremity strengthening, lumbar stabilization against the SwimEx’s laminar flow, and walking. We treated her for three months, two to three times a week. At discharge, her pain was down to four out of ten, she was independent with all transfers and could walk using a cane. In addition, her stand tolerance increased from 35 seconds to 1:30 minutes.”
A motor vehicle accident left a 38 year-old woman paralyzed from the waist down. At the hospital, she learned to walk using aquatic therapy, and could walk in the water. When she came to Live Well, she could ambulate with a single point cane but with significant exertion.
“We are continuing her aquatic treatment and currently seeing her twice a week,” Barb says. “We designed a program that included lower extremity strengthening, core stabilization against the laminar flow, walk training, and stretching after aquatic sessions. She continues to improve, increasing her repetitions, movement velocity and laminar flow resistance. She says she is not as tired at work, and she feels better overall.”
A successful partnership
Not only have their patients found much success with SwimEx, but Live Well points to having the pool as a key factor in their success. They feature it in their advertising and it’s one of the top bullet points in their services brochure. And they’re currently shooting a television commercial starring the pool’s therapeutic benefits.
“It’s a huge factor in why people come here,” Beth says. “Out of 400 visits per month, aquatic rehab is sixty to seventy percent of our patients. Our usage has exceeded projections and we’re very busy – it’s a better investment than we had thought. Given our caseload, I’d say we’re on track to pay off the pool in half the time we projected.”
And Barb, who hadn’t used aquatic therapy before, now says “I can’t imagine practicing without it.”