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By DONNA MANZO-DRAGON
Pat Trautman of Rosemont once enjoyed playing golf and skiing. Then she was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances, the weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. Symptoms may increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, in severe cases, the patient is almost totally paralyzed.
Trautman was referred by her physician to Hunterdon Medical Center's Physical Therapy Department at the Sand Hill Professional Building in Flemington.
When Trautman first arrived for treatment, she was in a wheelchair. The Physical Therapy Department worked with her for about nine months until she progressed to a walker, and was also beginning to use a forearm crutch. The department recommended that she be transferred to the Physical Therapy Department at Health Quest for Aquatic Therapy.
Aqua therapy is a rehabilitation therapy that is provided in water. The buoyancy of water reduces impact and stress on joints and muscles, in turn reducing the fear of pain. The result is a measurable improvement in function, muscle tone and psychological satisfaction.
This specific type of therapy is beneficial to patients not only with Guillain Barre Syndrome for patients with severe back injuries, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and athletic injuries as well.
"At Hunterdon Medical Center's Physical Therapy at HealthQuest, we take a one-on-one approach to treating our patients with the therapy needed for their particular ailment," said Brian Lehrer, senior physical therapist. "Physical therapists and their patients work together to achieve goals in the water, then ultimately moving to land workouts.
"Patients like Pat have trouble walking across a room, but in the water they are weightless. They can re-learn to use muscles damaged by disease or injury. The objective is not to keep the patient in the water but to bridge the gap to land based goals."
Although Trautman still has limited feeling in her hands or feet, she feels aqua therapy has helped her tremendously.
"The sessions I have in the water have helped me to strengthen my legs," she said. "I can do knee bends in the water because of the buoyancy, which I can't do out of water. The therapy helped me regain some feeling in my feet and hands."
Hunterdon Medical Center offers aqua therapy at their HealthQuest location in Flemington and at the Hunterdon Health and Wellness Center in Whitehouse Station.
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