Many people with joint pain resulting from osteoarthritis feel trapped because they are told that becoming more active, stronger, and losing weight will help reduce their symptoms; however, joint pain makes movement and exercise difficult. People feel trapped by their condition and this can often lead to depression and a significant decrease in quality of life. The pool can be an incredibly effective environment for exercising early on during the rehabilitation process for those dealing with joint pain but looking to become more active right away.
The buoyant force of water is the force that suspends us and decreases our relative body weight. When a person is in the water up to their chest, they weigh approximately 10 percent of their weight on land. Waist high water results in approximately 50 percent of normal body weight. This can significantly decrease joint pain during activity and improve one’s ability to exercise. Many exercise pools are heated to a warmer temperature than lap swim pools. The warmth of the water can also be beneficial by decreasing pain, improving flexibility, and improving muscle function making exercise feel better. Finally, the natural turbulence of the water requires almost constant muscle effort to control body motion which helps our core stabilizing muscles to become stronger, along with the leg muscles during the performance of lower body exercises.
Most community/city pools and pools at private gyms offer aquatic exercise classes. Often, they will have classes tailored specifically to those dealing with joint pain from osteoarthritis. This provides a great way to exercise in a group setting with people who are going through the same rehabilitation process. These classes offer social interaction, camaraderie, and positive reinforcement which can significantly improve mood which also has a pain decreasing effect. However, the group exercise setting is not for everyone. Many physical therapy practices offer the benefits of aquatic rehabilitation in a more individualized and intimate setting if a larger group environment is not appealing.
Guest Blog By: Brent McLeod, DPT of Therapeutic Associates