Moving forward, backwards and sideways through the water, using therapy aids to increase resistance, physical therapy patients in Chadron are finding that the therapy pool at the new Chadron Area Aquatics and Wellness Center is helping them in their recoveries.

“I did find the water soothing, and I was able to do some things in the water that would have been uncomfortable otherwise,” said Lee Detwiler, who had a knee replacement in June. Those motions in the warm therapy pool were also beneficial for her entire body, not just her knee, she added of her twice weekly aquatic therapy sessions.

Her structured sessions have since concluded, but Detwiler hasn’t stopped visiting the facility.

“I have gone on my own some since, too, and plan to continue for awhile,” she said of the therapy pool. When that pool is unavailable, she makes use of the walking track.

“I really feel like (the aquatic center) is an asset to the community for people of all ages, and I think the therapy pool is particularly nice for the elderly.”

But the therapy pool isn’t just for the elderly. Becky Watson, a senior at Sioux County High School, made use of aquatic therapy during her rehab from a sports injury. She practiced running and walking in the water and believes those activities helped her perform the rest of her rehab program better.

“It helped me a lot,” she said.

Physical Therapist Eser Graham-Marski and physical therapist assistant Sarah Henderson use the therapy pool at the aquatic center every Tuesday afternoon and all day each Thursday. Aquatic therapy can be useful for almost any condition, Graham-Marski said, from post surgical rehabilitation and balance to recovery from strokes and sports injuries.

The Chadron Community Hospital’s physical therapy program did not have access to a dedicated therapy pool before the construction of the aquatic center. Instead, patients interested in aquatic therapy were meeting therapists at two hotels in town.

“It is a lot easier to use the aquatic therapy pool, because it’s a lot warmer,” said Graham-Marski. The pool is kept at 91 degrees, an ideal temperature that allows the hydrostatic pressure to decrease inflammation and increase circulation, he continued. The hotel pools were never that warm, and his patients are happier at the new facility.

The zero-entry ramp is also safer for his patients, and actually makes aquatic therapy available to more individuals, since some patients can’t handle steps into a pool early in their rehab.

“It’s great. …The zero entry is way more accessible (than the hotel pools),” concurred Henderson.

The aquatic center’s facility also provides office space for hospital personnel and a private locker room and showers for therapy patients.

“It’s a more professional environment,” Henderson said, noting that they’ve seen an increase in the interest in aquatic therapy since the center opened. Sessions are one-on-one with patients and last 45 minutes. Aquatic therapy is often intertwined with more traditional therapy, and patients are encouraged to continue their aquatic regimen on their own once their formal rehab program has concluded.

“They are able to move better in the water. They can achieve more of their goals,” Henderson said. “A lot of people say they don’t realize how good the water feels until they come a couple of times.”

Bert Lesher has used aquatic therapy several times over the years, and said it’s been most helpful in managing arthritis and old injuries.

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“If you’re in pain the pool works much better than traditional therapies sometimes,” she said.

Physical therapy is just one use of the aquatic center’s therapy pool.

Water aerobics classes are held in the pool three times a day, five days a week, and each Monday, a water yoga class takes place, said Brandon Girard, who manages the aquatic center. When the pool isn’t in use for structured activity, it’s open to the public, though Girard warns that it’s not a kiddie pool.

Chadron State College athletes, including the football players and wrestlers, make use of the pool as well, coming in on their own time to get in low-impact workouts or rehab injuries.

The city hopes to one day add an underwater treadmill, bike and trampoline to the therapy pool to offer more versatility, Girard said, and have applied for grants to do just that.

Overall, the inclusion of the therapy pool in the design of the aquatic center has been a well received addition to the community, he continued.

“They love it,” Girard said.

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