The aim of this study was to critically evaluate the literature regarding the efficacy and feasibility of aquatic physiotherapy in people with Parkinson’s disease. Relevant studies were identified through searches in nine health-related databases. Two independent reviewers assessed study quality using either the PEDro scale or a customised tool for safety and feasibility.
Database searches yielded 88 articles, of which 10 met the inclusion criteria. Studies varied greatly in methodology, quality, interventions and outcome measures. Study quality was generally low in items reporting on safety precautions, adverse events, attrition, and adherence. Results suggest that aquatic physiotherapy may have a positive effect on motor symptoms, quality of life and balance.
Aquatic physiotherapy may improve aspects of motor performance, quality of life and balance in people with Parkinson’s disease, however, it remains unclear whether it is a safe and feasible treatment modality. The development of standardised outcome measures for people with Parkinson’s disease (unified Parkinson’s disease rating scale and Parkinson’s disease questionnaire-39) would aid study comparability and validate study outcomes. As safety criteria was grossly underreported, guidelines for mandatory reporting of safety criteria are essential to make conclusions regarding the feasibility of aquatic physiotherapy for people with Parkinson’s disease. Implications for Rehabilitation Aquatic physiotherapy may be a beneficial treatment modality for people with Parkinson’s disease. A minimum data set that includes the unified Parkinson’s disease rating scale and Parkinson’s disease questionnaire 39 is required to aid future meta-analysis and to allow more definitive conclusions to be made regarding aquatic physiotherapy for people with Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease are a vulnerable population, where safety within an aquatic physiotherapy program needs to be well documented and addressed.