To investigate the effects of hydrotherapy on walking ability and balance in patients with chronic stroke.
Single-blind, randomized controlled pilot trial.
Outpatient rehabilitation clinic at a tertiary neurological hospital in China.
A total of 28 participants with impairments in walking and controlling balance more than six months post-stroke.
After baseline evaluations, participants were randomly assigned to a land-based therapy (control group, n = 14) or hydrotherapy (study group, n = 14). Participants underwent individual sessions for four weeks, five days a week, for 45 minutes per session.
After four weeks of rehabilitation, all participants were evaluated by a blinded assessor. Functional assessments included the Functional Reach Test, Berg Balance Scale, 2-minute walk test, and Timed Up and Go Test.
After four weeks of treatment, the Berg Balance Scale, functional reach test, 2-minute walk test, and the Timed Up and Go Test scores had improved significantly in each group (P < 0.05). The mean improvement of the functional reach test and 2-minute walk test were significantly higher in the aquatic group than in the control group (P < 0.01). The differences in the mean values of the improvements in the Berg Balance Scale and the Timed Up and Go Test were not statistically significant.
The results of this study suggest that a relatively short programme (four weeks) of hydrotherapy exercise resulted in a large improvement in a small group (n = 14) of individuals with relatively high balance and walking function following a stroke.