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  • MRH pool therapy program instrumental in fitness and rehab

    “Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine,” a central European proverb contends.

    History seems to bear that out. The use of water as a medical treatment and as a means of rehabilitation is as old as mankind. Historical and archaeological evidence has shown that it has been used for several thousand years in both in the east and west with naturally occurring hot or mineral springs among the first to be used. And then there was Hippocrates (460 BC), often describes as the father of modern medicine, who was said to have been the first to write extensively about the healing of disease with water.

    Fast forward to today. Pool therapy – the use of water for pain relief and for other treatments – is an accepted and widely used rehabilitation tool, one that is in use in the Katahdin region’s own back yard. However, it is underutilized by people of the region and if not for pool users’ praises for the benefits of therapy and exercise, this resource would be little known.
    The 12,000 gallon fiberglass pool used in therapy is housed at Millinocket Regional Hospital’s White Birch Medical Center (WBMC) and is part of LIFEstyle Fitness Center at 899 Central St. in Millinocket.

    Pool therapy has been life changing for the man who arrived at WBMC, head bent over, back curved – the result of multiple fractures throughout his body. Today, after undergoing therapy, he literally feels like and looks like a new man, head erect, back straight.

    Today that grateful individual – through a personal decision – maintains his current level of health by taking advantage of the gym offerings at the center, working out on the various pieces of exercise equipment under the direction of his physical therapist.

    Pool therapy occurs with patients under the direction of a physical therapist as part of MRH Rehab services. Other people benefit, too, from the pool as an exercise option: like the early birds that start their day in the water, or the teachers who come after school, or the mothers seeking opportunities for relaxing and/or socializing, or persons who bring along happy music to put some zip in that day’s exercise effort.

    Benefits of pool therapy include: increased blood flow to the body, reduced aches and pains from sore muscles and relief of joint stress, improved flexibility, improved balance and coordination, building of muscle strength and reduction of stress. At other times pool therapy is used to help improve arthritis, muscle/skeletal problems, back pain, foot, ankle and knee pain and improvement in other problem areas.

    The aim is to return a person to optimal function, or as close as possible, explains 25 year veteran MRH physical therapist Pat Thibodeau, one of three physical therapists associated with pool therapy. The other therapists include, Lanie Daigle (23 years) and Nicole Ayotte (15 years).

    Patients needing these services are evaluated to determine whether “land” rehabilitation or pool therapy is the most appropriate. For Thibodeau it is “rewarding” to see patients return to activities of daily living, or as close to that as possible. Those taking advantage of the therapy pool range in age from mid-teens to 90 year olds.

    “Most people thoroughly enjoy the pool,” Thibodeau says.

    One of those people is Margaret Bond of Millinocket. A pool regular, Bond spends up to an hour exercising, five days a week. She sings the praises of the pool and of her water based exercises, exercises which help her with her arthritis. A knee replacement brought her to pool therapy in 2011 and when that was completed she became an enthusiastic user of the pool for exercising under LIFEstyle Fitness.

    “The day I don’t want to come is the day when I need it (pool exercise) the most,” Bond said. And there is the social aspect of it as well, Bond said, “plus it gets me out in the morning.”
    LIFEstyles’ pool is the only therapy pool in existence north of Bangor. Not only is it used by tri-town residents, but people from beyond the area travel to WBMC, including a Presque Isle resident who regularly makes the two hour-plus, 109 mile trip to Millinocket in order to use the therapy pool.

    Persons who purchase a LIFEstyle membership may use both the pool and the center’s extensive exercise equipment. The cost of doctor-recommended pool therapy is generally covered by Medicare or other insurance.

    The pool, itself, is kept at therapeutic 89 degrees. Room temperatures (including the changing rooms) and air temperatures are set to best serve the proper functioning of the pool area and the health of the users. Humidity levels are carefully monitored. The pool meets all state and Medicare regulations.

    The fact that the pool is of fiberglass construction means it will not crack, is easier to maintain and easier to clean. It is 24 feet long and16 feet wide. At the shallow end it is three and one-half feet deep and at the deep end five feet deep. Up to eight people can be in the pool at one time comfortably.

    The pool is open to the general public from 6:15a.m. – 7p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. And on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays it is open from 6: 15a.m until 11: 00a.m, then again from 4 p.m. until closing at 7 p.m. Seasonally, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the pool is open on Saturday’s from 7a.m- 11a.m.

    On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 4p.m, the pool is devoted exclusively to pool therapy.

    The men’s and women’s locker rooms are handicapped accessible, with handicapped bathrooms. The locker rooms are cleaned nightly. There are outlets for hair dryers, plus lockers for daily use by individuals. There is an emergency exit from the pool area. In addition, there is a key code pad on the entrance door to the pool area that prevents children from accessing the pool area.
    LIFEstyle has been at its Central St. location for more than 10 years and is home to: a wide variety of exercise equipment located in five areas of the building. Persons wishing more information regarding LIFEstyle and its services should call 207-723-6454 or email: wellness@mrhme.org

    Margaret Bond, front right, enjoys her weekly morning exercise at LIFEstyle Fitness Center.

    Therapeutic pool for rehabilitation and fitness alike

    A wellness experience that is fun for all ages!



    Special thanks to our LIFEstyle Fitness member who wrote this piece but wishes to remain anonymous.