Aquatic Therapy for Arthritis

The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Arthritis


In the United States, arthritis is the leading causing of disability affecting nearly 60 million adults and 300,000 children. Pain is the most common complaint associated with arthritis. It affects people of all ages and can keep them from performing simple day-to-day activities.

If joint pain, stiffness, or inflammation due to arthritis affects you or someone you care about, you should know that arthritis pain can be managed. Gentle exercise, like aquatic therapy for arthritis, may just be the treatment you need to feel and move better.

Why Is Exercise So Important for People With Arthritis?

The Arthritis Foundation and ChoosePT remind those affected by joint disorders that movement is medicine.” While it may seem counterintuitive to get moving when your joints are stiff and sore, research shows that physical activity decreases arthritis pain and improves mobility, function, and even mood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intense physical activity per week for people with arthritis. Walking, biking, and water exercise are among the safe and approved activities to protect joints while improving one’s health. You should always check with your healthcare provider to make sure exercise is safe for your condition and health status.

What Is Aquatic Therapy?

Exercise is an integral part of managing arthritis, but land-based exercise may be too challenging when starting to move when suffering from symptoms of arthritis. This leaves patients with arthritis wondering how they can remain active without increasing pain. The answer is aquatic exercise.

Aquatic therapy is a type of physical therapy that refers to exercises performed in water for fitness, physical rehabilitation, relaxation, and other therapeutic benefits. It is often recommended for individuals with certain neuromusculoskeletal disorders because it is low-impact and won’t stress joints and other structures that are compromised due to injury or disease.

Every patient has their own water therapy treatment plan based on their abilities, limitations, and symptoms. All you need is a comfortable swimsuit, a towel, and a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Sessions typically last anywhere from 30-60 minutes. Some patients eventually transition to land-based exercise once they have reached their aquatic therapy goals. However, patients with arthritis can continue aquatic exercise indefinitely for symptom management.

Does aquatic therapy help arthritis?

Exercising in water can have many benefits. Water reduces the stress and load placed on arthritic joints because the buoyancy of water supports one’s body weight against the effects of gravity. On the other hand, water can be used to build strength as well as it provides 12 times more resistance than air because of viscosity (friction).Water can be a great avenue to help you to start get moving, particularly if you have found that land-based exercise is difficult or painful.

Other benefits of water aerobics for arthritis patients include:

  • The ability to move joints more freely
  • Increased mobility and flexibility without pain
  • Strengthened muscles without the use of weights
  • Compression of the limbs and joints in water improves blood flow and reduces swelling

On top of all of these valuable health benefits, many people enjoy water therapy because it’s just plain fun!

Is Aquatic Exercise Right For Me?

Unless your doctor prohibits it, exercise should be a key part of your arthritis management plan. Aquatic therapy is a fun and safe way to build strength, ease pressure on sore joints, and release those mood-boosting endorphins.

Many gyms are equipped with a swimming pool and offer aquatic exercise classes, but if you would like more guidance and education, your physical therapist can point you in the right direction. To experience aquatic therapy benefits for yourself, find a physical therapy clinic near you.

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