Aquacare set to celebrate 10th anniversary

Coastal Point photos • Tyler Valliant: Aquacare physical therapist Lauren Nuttle demonstrates her skills on fellow employee Deanine Barclay.Coastal Point photos • Tyler Valliant: Aquacare physical therapist Lauren Nuttle demonstrates her skills on fellow employee Deanine Barclay.After 10 years in its Millville location, the staff at Aquacare Physical Therapy continues to expand its “menu” of services.

“We offer both ‘surf’ and ‘turf,’” said physical therapist Lauren Nuttle — referring to the pool-based aquatherapy available at Aquacare, as well as the “land-based” therapies offered there, too.

While the aquatherapy is obvious from the name, Nuttle said, the office offers more traditional physical therapy techniques, as well as some new ones that have just come into use in the past several years.

Nuttle said she loves the breadth of services offered at Aquacare because “I don’t have to tell someone, ‘Oh, we don’t have that here,’ or ‘We can’t do that here.’” The depth of the services allows staff at Aquacare to accept a wide range of patients, Nuttle said.

She recalled one favorite patient who had suffered several broken bones in a motorcycle accident. Thanks to the availability of the pool for therapy in which his body weight was supported — a person submerged up to his neck in water feels a loss of 90 percent of their body weight — he was able to start therapy there and follow through all the way to his complete recovery.

“We can serve every age range and every patient level,” she said, adding that the motorcycle crash patient is now back to his regular routine of hardcore gym workouts.

A technique called “dry needling” (also known as myofascial trigger-point dry needling or intramuscular stimulation) is the use of either solid-core or hollow-core needles for muscle pain treatment. The needles are inserted through the skin into specific areas of the muscle, known as trigger points.

Nuttle herself has been a dry-needling patient and said it helped her when rotator cuff spasms made any arm movement painful, with the therapy restoring her ability to raise her arm straight above her head.

Dry needling has been used in Delaware since 2009; Delaware’s legislature became the 29th state in the nation to regulate its use in physical therapy in 2014.

Aquacare also offers treatment for pelvic issues in both women and men and is the first physical therapy practice on Delmarva to do so. Pelvic-floor issues aren’t talked about much, Nuttle said, and often people suffer in silence because either they don’t know there is treatment or they have concluded that their symptoms are normal.

“You shouldn’t have to plan your vacation around where the restrooms are,” Nuttle said simply.

Aquacare offers high-tech applications for pelvic floor issues that help patients gain better understanding of their own bodies, which ensures that treatment is as effective as possible.

Another recent addition to the services offered at Aquacare extends beyond the human species to canines that need physical therapy. Nuttle, who has received special training in canine physical therapy, said it’s a specialty that requires a certain ability to understand non-verbal cues from patients — either human or canine.

When a dog is in pain or discomfort, Nuttle said, “They can’t tell you. But they do…” — it’s simply a matter of knowing how to read the non-verbal cues. Canine physical therapy also involves quite a bit of owner education, she said. The educational process emphasizes the importance of owners thinking about their pets’ health in terms of their needs for healing, rather than what their pets seem to want to do.

That’s the big difference between human physical therapy and canine physical therapy, Nuttle said. As an example, she said, “When an older dog with a bad hip still wants to go get that ball,” owners need to remember not to throw the ball as far, at least not initially. Another example: Just as people often remove throw rugs to reduce the tripping risk for senior humans, they should do the same for dogs, Nuttle said.

The most common reasons for veterinarians referring pets to Aquacare include weight management and osteoarthritis management, Nuttle said. Referrals are not necessary for dogs to be treated at Aquacare; however, she emphasized that if there has been a traumatic injury, the dog needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

Nuttle said canine physical therapy is not something that every physical therapist can do, or wants to do, but that she has enjoyed the addition of the service to the Aquacare facility for the past three years.

“It’s been very rewarding for me,” she said.

The Millville Aquacare facility is one of 10 Delmarva locations; the others are located in Seaford, Lewes and Millsboro in Delaware and Berlin, Annapolis, Salisbury (two locations), Easton and West Ocean City in Maryland. The first Aquacare facility was opened in Salisbury in 1998.

In the past year, Aquacare has also formed a partnership with Atlantic General Hospital and Berlin gastroenterologist Dr. Gerald Canakis, to offer the pelvic-floor help for both women and men.

The public is being invited to celebrate their 10th anniversary with Aquacare from 2 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 6, when the staff will welcome visitors with gourmet appetizers and cocktails, complimentary massages by staff members, door prizes and a grand prize of a free 12-month pool membership.

Aquacare staff will also host a series of demonstrations and free sessions during the event. They are:

• 2-3 p.m. — Free water aerobics class (call to register);

• 3-3:30 p.m. — “Bottom Line on Kegels,” a women’s health discussion by physical therapist Malisa Ochotnicky;

• 3:30-4 p.m., “Am I Dizzy or Just Unsteady,” a balance program by physical therapist Donielle Brasure;

• 4-4:30 p.m. — “Physical Therapy for My Dog,” a canine therapy program introduction by physical therapist Lauren Nuttle; and

• 4:30-5 p.m. — “Oww… My Muscles Hurt!” a dry-needling demonstration by Nicole Evans, physical therapist.

At 5 p.m., there will be a ribbon-cutting and “alumni picture,” in which all past patients are invited to participate.

Aquacare Physical Therapy is located at 38069 Town Center Drive, Unit 15, in the Millville Town Center. For more information on services, call the office at (302) 539-7237 or visit their website at