Aquatic Therapy for Winter Arthritis

Winter months seems to exacerbate the symptoms for many of the 45 million Americans who suffer from arthritis. Pain and stiffness in joints may or may not be due to colder weather, but one thing is for sure: people generally do less movement in the cold and shortened daylight hours and that will aggravate arthritis symptoms. Activity, such as aquatic therapy, helps relieve symptoms by increasing circulation and decreasing swelling and stiffness. In fact, in a study of those with osteoarthritis, the Arthritis Foundation found that hydrotherapy provided significant improvements in pain and function.*

Aquatic therapy is particularly helpful in those who have arthritis because exercise in water cannot damage the joint further and the warm offers the following benefits:

  • Buoyancy: While submerged in water, buoyancy assists in supporting your weight, thus allowing for decreased stress on muscles, joints, and bones.
  • Resistance: Water is excellent source of resistance that can be easily incorporated into an aquatic therapy exercise program. This resistance allows for muscle strengthening without the need for weights.
  • Hydrostatic Pressure: The water surrounding the body helps circulate blood from the legs to the heart, often reducing any swelling in the ankles and feet.  Once swelling is reduced, joint tenderness may decrease and range of motion can increase.
  • Temperature: The warmth of the water used in aquatic therapy assists in relaxing muscles and increasing blood flow to affected areas.

*http://www.arthritis.org/research/funded-research/research-update/journal-summaries/aquatic-tai-chi/