If you have osteoarthritis, staying physical active can help manage your symptoms. When traditional exercises are too painful, hitting the pool is an excellent option.

Aquatics for arthritis

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Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Many individuals are affected by it with varying degree of limitation. It is a chronic condition that causes the material which cushions your joints to break down. As a result your bones begin to rub together causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement. The level of disability varies from individual depending upon the severity of pain. It will have an impact on walking, climbing stairs and doing activities at home.

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are treatment options. If you are experiencing pain and loss of movement, set an appointment with your doctor. He or she may perform some diagnostics to see the level of joint loss and may prescribe medication to relieve some of your symptoms.

Staying physically active and maintaining a normal weight are key components of managing your symptoms. By not moving you allow your joints to become more stiff making movement more painful. It is sometimes very difficult and painful to do exercises such as walking, riding a bike or lifting weights. When this is the case aquatic therapy would be beneficial. Aquatic therapy is beneficial in the following ways:

  1. Buoyancy - This is the downward force of gravity. As a result, you have less stress placed on your joints and muscles. The level of force placed on your joints and muscles depends upon the water depth. With water up to your waist you have 50 percent of your body weight immersed in the water. As the water level increases less force is placed on your body.
  2. Resistance force -  You will be getting resistance all around you in the water, which allows the muscles to work in all directions. The muscles on both sides of the joints are working, so it is more balanced and you experience less pain.
  3. Hydrostatic pressure - This is pressure that the water will exert on your body surface. Hydrostatic pressure allows increase blood flow from your lower extremities back to your heart. This will help with lowering your blood pressure, improving your heart rate and decreasing edema in your limbs.
  4. Warmth - Individuals with osteoarthritis would benefit from exercising in a warm pool. Warm water relaxes the muscles which will allow your joints to have more mobility.

It is important to make your doctor aware that you are beginning an aquatic program, especially if you have high blood pressure. Your blood pressure will be taken before you enter the water. It will be beneficial to take your vitals again at the end of the session. If you are diabetic, taking of your glucose level before starting in the water is also important. Many individuals have a fear of the water because they can’t swim. Let your instructor be aware of this and they will slowly introduce you to the water. You do not have to be able to swim to participate in aquatic therapy.  



About the Author

Phyllis Tacik, LPTA specializes in orthopedic and aquatic rehab. She has more than 14 years of orthopedic experience and eight years of aquatic rehab experience. Phyllis focuses on assisting patients become more independent by utilizing both a variety of aquatic and therapeutic exercises.     .