It is no secret that most of us take our bodies for granted, assuming they are going to work when and how we want them to work. However, the reality is, at some point, after using and abusing our bodies year after year, it is just going to scream, “Stop!”. That “voice of reason” may come in the form of joint pain, commonly caused by arthritis.
Believe it or not, osteoarthritis is alive and well in every single one of us in some form or another. By definition, osteoarthritis is the painful inflammation and swelling of a joint. However, let’s not sugar coat the reality. Simply put, arthritis hurts! So, what can we do to manage those painful symptoms?
When working in the physical therapy world, arthritis has a daily presence. Therapy professionals are always studying and researching ways to best treat arthritic joints. Time after time, there is one that just makes the most sense – Aquatics!
Why Aquatic Therapy? Well, aquatic therapy eliminates the weight-bearing stresses that we experience every day, reducing stress on the joint and therefore, less pain. If fact, when standing in water up to your calves, you are already putting 15% less weight on your joints, at your knees, 35% less, hips 50%, shoulders 75% and neck 90% less stress on your joints!
Reducing the stress on these joints, will also reduce the pain you experience when moving the joints. With the joints now given the ability to move pain-free in the water, patients are able to begin strengthening the muscles surrounding the arthritic joint. Why is this so important? Several long-term benefits will come from increasing the strength of the surrounding muscles of an arthritic joint:
- Increased stability and balance
- Reduced need for compensation by other limbs
- Less demand on the arthritic joint resulting in a decrease in inflammation
- Reduced pain when on land
We would suggest starting an aquatic exercise program with slow walking in shallow water at a comfortable depth. For some variety, you can walk forward, backward or sideways…you can even march or jog if you are feeling good! All walking motions are able to be duplicated in the deep water for a complete non weight bearing exercise.
If you are looking to focus on upper extremity joints, arm raises to the front and side are both easy to perform. These are also easy to incorporate with walking for an added total body strengthening experience. Besides walking, a patient favorite exercise is grabbing a noodle, placing it under the arms and gently moving your legs in a bicycle motion. This exercise is best performed in deeper water with varying rates of intensity.
Aquatic therapy is one of the most effective means of treatment for an individual of any age suffering from arthritis. HARTZ Physical Therapy offers aquatic facilities at our Lititz, Lancaster-East and Mount Joy locations.