From Walker To Walking

“Pool days” make Elliot Maleska so excited, he may jump up and down.

As it might for many 3-year-olds like him. However, Elliot’s different. Before he began pool therapy at Fairview Northland Medical Center, Elliot couldn’t jump, much less walk without the assistance of a walker.

It might seem like fun and games, but these sessions are helping him build crucial muscle strength—all thanks to Fairview Northland’s aquatic therapy program and its SwimEx® resistance pool. A less stressful muscle workout Elliot has torticollis, also known as “wry neck,” a disorder in which neck muscles can contract involuntarily, causing his head to twist or turn to one side.
After noticing developmental delays, Elliot’s physician recommended physical therapy—first, “land” therapy and, later, “pool” therapy. In January, Elliot started bi-weekly pool therapy with Sarah Haggar, physical therapist, during which Elliot is able to work on his coordination, strength and balance. When raised to 88 degrees or more, water can relax muscles while promoting flexibility. It can help reduce the effects of gravity on the body while providing natural resistance to help muscles work harder with less stress.“He actually really liked the water to begin with so he didn’t have any problem getting used to it,” says Elliot’s mother, Mary.Elliot also has had bi-weekly land therapy with Peggy Blenkush, physical therapist, since he was 4 months old.“His progress just took off after pool therapy,” says Peggy.

“To try and get a 2-year-old to do lower extremity exercises is just about impossible but, if you get him in a pool and have him kick and push off the sides, it’s easier. It helps him strengthen the lower body without him even knowing it,” she says.

From walker to walking

For Peggy, who has worked with Elliot for more than two years, the connection is unique.

“It’s just been a really fun, connected treatment, like he’s one of my kids,” she says.

“He’s actually part of the reason I’m going to try and do more training in aquatic therapy, specifically for pediatrics.”

Once needing a walker for assistance, Elliot now walks, runs and hops by himself. His therapists believe he’s on his way to graduating from therapy.

Available for all ages

Aquatic therapy is available at Fairview Northland and Fairview Ridges (at the Burnsville YMCA) to provide superior health outcomes for all ages. It’s used to help with conditions, such as:

  • Joint replacement or spinal surgery
  • Traumatic injury
  • Bone, joint or muscle problems
  • Chronic conditions, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Work-related injuries
  • Chronic pain
  • Neurological conditions, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome or cerebral palsy
  • Developmental disabilities with impaired physical function
  • Low back pain

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