BACKGROUND: The aquatic environment has unique properties, such a buoyancy, turbulence, hydrostatic pressure, and resistance, which can be used to gain a range of exercise benefits. During the last decade, hydrotherapy has spread in a very heterogeneous rehabilitation field. However, the efficacy of this kind of rehabilitation is not clear in scientific literature. The purpose of this study is to conduct a systematic review with meta-analysis to evaluate the qualitative and quantitative results of physical therapy treatments in an aquatic setting for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis.
METHOD: PRISMA guidelines were used to carry out the systematic review and meta-analysis. Three bibliographic databases were searched: MEDLINE, PEDro, and the Cochrane Library. Papers included in the study have the following characteristics: (a) a randomized controlled trial design of research and (b) published in English. The quality of the clinical trials included were evaluated according to a Jadad score and through meta-analysis.
RESULTS: After the elimination of duplicates, 116 records were screened. Among these, 11 Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) were included in the systematic review. Ten of these were involved in the meta-analysis. From the qualitative analysis, a larger number of studies were found with a high level of quality. Most of the results of the quantitative analysis were statistically significant (p< 0.05).
CONCLUSION: Aquatic physical therapy is a valid means of rehabilitation for people with Multiple Sclerosis. The integration of this methodological approach with conventional physical therapy is recommended. Nevertheless, more studies, a larger number of participants, and short-, medium-, and long-term follow-up are required to confirm current results.