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Kiki Dickinson (far right) trains Tri-County Health Care physical and occupational therapists in aquatic therapy techniques earlier this month at the Wadena AmericInn.

TCHC trains employees in aquatic therapy

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Aquatic therapy changed Anna Hinkle's life.

Paralyzed in a car accident, the Bertha native sought treatment at a warm water therapy pool, which increased joint movement and reduced the spasms in her legs.

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"It just made everything a lot easier," Hinkle said. "When you're in pain, sometimes you don't want to do therapy. It made it a lot less painful."

But Hinkle had to travel to Golden Valley's Courage Center for treatment. Once the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center opens this fall, there will be a warm water therapy pool right here in Wadena, making the treatment available for those who don't have the means to travel for care.

"Just to be able to go to Wadena will be great," said Hinkle, who shared her experiences with a legislative panel when the city was vying for state wellness center funding.

Earlier this month, eight physical and occupational therapists from Tri-County Health Care participated in a two-day therapy pool training from Kiki Dickinson, a Minneapolis-based aquatic therapy instructor. Each day started with classroom instruction. Then, in the afternoons, the therapists hopped in the Wadena AmericInn pool - heated for the occasion - to learn specific techniques, including watsu (or water shiatsu), pilates and yoga.

"All of your traditional therapy interventions can be done in the water as well as on land ..." said Shelagh Carlson, rehab manager for TCHC, which will lease the wellness center therapy pool from the city. "You really have just have to think of the pool as another piece of equipment."

Aquatic therapy has a wide range of uses in occupational, physical and even speech therapy, Carlson said.

It helps improve strength, flexibility, endurance and balance for patients of all ages and with all sorts of conditions, whether it be brain injury, brittle-bone disease, multiple sclerosis, low back injury or recovery from surgery or stroke.

"It's just endless, really," Carlson said.

The treatment is particularly effective, she said, for people with limited mobility on land. "I can get underneath them when I can't in the gym. The water relaxes those muscles and those soft tissues to get that movement without pain, discomfort. It also helps them keep their body temperature regulated."

Therapy will be offered in one-on-one and group settings, although specific programming and staffing details have yet to be worked out, said Kathy Kleen, TCHC chief nursing officer and Hinkle's mother.

"It's so exciting," said Kleen, who was visibly moved as she related her daughter's success with aquatic therapy.

For St. Francis Healthcare, 80 miles to the west in Breckenridge, building a warm water therapy pool was well worth the investment, said Tim Peterson, director of rehab services and medical wellness.

"It's been a great extension of therapy service," Peterson said. "It gets excellent use and is a great exercise routine that will help healing."

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