Using Aquatics for Patients with Arthritis and Joint Replacement
The following blog post has been summarized for the recent article published in January/February 2014 Issue of Rehab Management titled, “Aquatic Management for Patients with Arthritis and Joint Replacement Conditions,” by Daniel Seidler, PT, MS.
Experiencing severe pain, swelling, stiffness, and fatigue isn’t something anyone wishes upon themselves. There is a growing segment of the US population with conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and gout. People are looking for an answer to relieve their pain. Warm water rehabilitation can decrease the amount of pain and discomfort one may be feeling.
Daniel Seidler, PT, MS, is the Executive Director of WSPT, a physical therapy, aquatic therapy, and wellness center. In this article, he talks about how to manage patients that are getting started on aquatic therapy including: assessing the patient prior to water therapy, introducing the patient to the pool, introducing the patient to aquatic exercises and opening the door to water workouts beyond therapy.
The process begins with evaluating the patient and getting to know the type of condition or injury they have. The physical therapist performs a thorough assessment to evaluate the patient. Once an assessment is performed, the PT can then guide the patient’s treatment plan to what will best will fit their needs. Additionally, it is helpful for the PT to review with the patient on practical rehabilitation activities occur.
An important factor in managing your patient effectively is introducing them to the pool in the correct manner.
“Many patients have heard of water therapy, but may never have had this kind of rehabilitation. Others may be squeamish about getting into the water, or hesitant about putting on a swimsuit.”
Physical therapists should be aware of several key reasons patients are hesitant to get in the water:
- Fear of Falling. Many patients do not feel stable enough to stand on their own or trust their balance. The PTs can help them participate in aquatic therapy while also feeling comfortable. A pool can have outfitted stairs, a chair lift, sling, lift, and/or variable-depth floor. These advantages help all kinds of patients and can change based on what the patients require.
- Difficulty or embarrassment wearing swimwear. The PT needs to make sure the patient feels comfortable in whatever they are wearing while exercising, along with assuring them that if they need help getting in and out of clothes an employee will be available to help.
- Fear of the Water. When a patient doesn’t feel comfortable in the water because they can’t swim, it makes it difficult to proceed with the workout. A variable-depth floor allows the patient to slowly enter into the water at their own pace without being submerged.
- Fear of Pain. Until the patient realizes that entering the warm-water reduces their pain, they may be hesitant. Once they realize that the water does help and they can trust it, aquatic therapy can begin.
The exercises the PT can perform depends on the patient and their conditions. Many patients see the pool as a place where they can do exercises that they may not be able to on land, giving them a sense of accomplishment.
“One of the most heartening experiences aquatic PTs discuss is the desire for patients to continue working in the therapy pool beyond their prescribed treatment plans.”
Download the Arthritis and Joint Replacement Information Sheet!
Kurt Stork, PT, Director of Rehabilitation at Four States Physical Therapy & Aquatic Rehabilitation & Premier Surgical Institute, provides you with reasons and outcomes as to why use aquatic therapy works. To find out more about how aquatic therapy and exercise can be beneficial for those suffering from osteoarthritis or joint replacements, download this tipsheet!