Clinical Information & Benefits

WATSU® is a passive form of Aquatic Bodywork Therapy that supports and gently moves a person through warm water in graceful, fluid movements. For those suffering from certain physical and/or mental ailments, WATSU® is designed to compliment your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan as a complementary and alternative treatment (CAT).

Benefited Populations

As WATSU® becomes more widely known, and therapists are impressed by its benefits, more rehabilitation centers, clinics and hospitals are integrating the therapy into their practice. Some of the many populations who have benefited include those with:

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Arthritis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Chronic Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Post Mastectomy
  • Post Thoracic Surgery
  • Post Traumatic Stress
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Strokes

Physiological Changes

WATSU® promotes a deep state of relaxation with dramatic changes in the autonomic nervous system which regulates the function of our internal organs.

By quieting the sympathetic nervous system¹ and enhancing the parasympathetic nervous system² WATSU’s® effects on the neuromuscular system are profound and beneficial.

The sympatholytic³ effects of WATSU® lead to enhancement of the parasympathetic nervous system which creates physiological changes throughout the body and may include:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased rate of respiration
  • Increased depth of respiration
  • Increased peripheral vasodilatation
  • Increased smooth muscle activity (digestion)
  • Decreased activation of striated muscles (skeletal)
  • Decreased spasticity
  • Decreased muscle spasm
  • Decreased Reticular Activating System activity
  • Enhanced immune system response

¹ The sympathetic nervous system activates the fight or flight response and operates through a series of interconnected neurons.
² The parasympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the rest and digest system that conserves energy by slowing the heart rate and increasing intestinal and gland activity.
³ Sympatholytic refers to having the effect of decreasing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.

Benefits of Treatment

The full number of benefits that WATSU® provides continues to grow as more and more people with different ailments participate in the practice. As the water’s buoyancy provides relief from compression forces on the joints and the movements help stretch and strengthen muscles, WATSU® practitioners report their patients have experienced the following benefits:

Immediate Benefits from First Session:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Increased muscle relaxation
  • Decreased muscle spasm
  • Decreased pain
  • Decreased spasticity
  • Decreased feelings of stress

Long-Term Benefits After Multiple Sessions

  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved healing and immune system response
  • Greater decreases in pain
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Many clients report a decrease in their emotional pain

In fact, many clients report that nothing else is as effective in decreasing their pain and improving their ability to move.

WATSU® is a registered trademark of Harold Dull.

The above is from Benefits of Watsu® For People With Orthopedic, Neurologic And Rheumatologic Special Needs by Peggy Schoedinger, PT

Peggy Schoedinger is an instructor of Watsu® 1, 2 and 3 who has taught Watsu® since 1990 in aquatic therapy seminars on five continents. She has used Watsu® in thousands of hours of work on individuals with special needs. Ms. Schoedinger has contributed an expanded chapter on Watsu® for those with special needs in the third edition of the above-referenced book.