Relaxation is one of the most important aspects of controlling arthritis and fibromyalgia pain. Therapeutic warm water provides sensory stimulation, which encourages relaxation and stress relief. Combining this warm water with our deep penetrating massage system can greatly reduce the stress and pain on aching muscles and joints.
Walking on the underwater treadmill or exercising against the resistance jets can also help manage your pain. When standing chest deep in water, the body is 80% weightless, bearing only 20% of its body weight. This weightlessness significantly reduces the stress on joints and muscles.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that can include musculoskeletal pain and fatigue along with many other symptoms that can affect every aspect of one’s life. It can be difficult to treat and many patients who suffer from fibromyalgia struggle to lead “normal” lives when the symptoms are so pervasive. According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia can also be linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety. The ability to keep these effects at bay is crucial for being able to maintain daily function.
Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Those Who Suffer from Arthritis and Fibromyalgia
- Increased joint range of motion
- Pain relief
- Enhanced mobility
- Improve flexibility
- Mobility and strength
- Removes weight from joints and bones
- Strengthens muscles and joints after surgery
- Decreased side effects
Aquatic Therapy For Patients With Arthritis
Ask any physical therapist to name the most common complaints of their patients and it’s almost certain osteoarthritis will be near the top of that list. Statistical evidence suggests that osteoarthritis is on the rise — from 1990 to 2005, the percentage of American adults exhibiting some form of OA jumped over 20%, from 21 million to 26.9 million.
This rapid increase represents one of the clearest public health implications of an aging population. For the more than one-third of adults over 65 suffering from OA, there is a pressing need for more physical therapy specialists with the tools and knowledge necessary to help aging adults deal with the condition’s effects.
Many patients with osteoarthritis (OA) have told me: “When you have arthritis you often just don’t want to move.”
Besides the pain of movement, the impact of contact with the ground causes severe pain with every step. Walking accentuates this force because the body’s weight is repeatedly shifted entirely onto the affected side. Consequently, someone with an arthritic joint will regularly compensate or limp in order to minimize the weight on that injured limb or side of the body. Compensations like those often lead to other asymmetries and then one dysfunctional body part evolves into multiple problems.
The pain of arthritis will also cause many people to limit their activity levels. The results are increased swelling/edema, stiffness, weakness and, typically, weight gain. These symptoms lead to more pain and the cycle continues and progresses.
When a patient with arthritis presents to physical therapy, the primary objective of the PT is to maximize the patient’s overall function with minimal compensation over the long-term. In layman’s terms, we want them to be able to do as much as possible without injuring something else.
For example, if a patient has OA of his/her right knee, he/she will commonly walk on a partially bent knee to avoid further injuring or causing more pain to the joint. The common effect is hip or back pain, particularly with excessive use.
If we can help that patient move and walk more normally, we can significantly reduce the effects on the individual’s entire body. Practicing normal movement in a pain-free environment enables progression to everyday pain-free movement during regular daily activities. Water offers that pain-free environment.
Aquatic therapy is an invaluable tool for patients with OA, particularly in the latter stages of the disease.
The hydrostatic pressure of a pool provides an effective means of reducing swelling. The 93-degree waters of our HydroWorx pool ease pain and facilitate movement, and the buoyancy of water reduces the effects of gravity. These natural qualities combined with the unique features of the HydroWorx pool (e.g., the treadmill, parallel bars, resistance jets, steps, exercise platform, massage hose) make it the ultimate rehab tool for patients with arthritis.
A warm pool allows arthritic joints to move as if they’ve been lubricated like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Warm water feels great on sore joints and the buoyant properties assist with movement. The beauty of the HydroWorx pool is the ability to walk or jog on a treadmill in this buoyant environment. Instead of experiencing pain every time an arthritic limb makes contact with the ground, the user feels as if they are floating with every step. Chest-deep water unweights the body 80%. That means that a 200-pound individual feels as if he or she weighs a mere 40 pounds!
Decreased pain and increased mobility allow a patient, even one with severe arthritis, to endure a vigorous workout without the normal side-effects. Think of the long-term benefits: increased mobility, increased strength, improved cardiovascular endurance, weight loss, and related decreased pain, in addition to improved gait and decreased risk of falls.
Our patients and clients with arthritis can’t live without their regular sessions on the HydroWorx treadmill. For many of them, it’s become a part of their regular routine and they continue with us as cash clients long after their insurance PT benefits are used up.
In the current healthcare environment, the Hydroworx pool is an ideal tool for individuals with arthritis.
Fibromyalgia Case Study
Mary, a fibromyalgia sufferer for years, is a patient who is now able to enjoy life thanks to the aquatic sessions she attends once a week with Barb Cacia, Wellness Coordinator at Pieters Family Life Center. Once hopeless, getting out of bed some days was nearly impossible. She has now reduced her medications to almost none and is able to maintain a much more “normal” daily life. Mary does multiple things to manage her symptoms. Aquatic therapy is an important piece of this puzzle.
Barb uses the water to help stretch and strengthen Mary’s muscles and joints as well as her core without causing pain. Their sessions consist of a warm up to loosen tight joints, aerobic exercise to increase her strength and a cool down to stretch her muscles and strengthen her core. Mary is able to do many more activities in the water than she would be able to tolerate on land. Oftentimes, conditions such as fibromyalgia can eventually cause other problems, such as osteoarthritis.
In order to avoid the onset of osteoarthritis in Mary’s hip, Barb has her perform exercises specifically to stretch her outer hip and improve her function. Mary is adamant that she would not be able to do these types of exercises on land. By using the buoyancy of the water and dropping the adjustable floor to 6′, she is able to do some exercises completely weightless. The combination of ankle weights and floatation devices provides the right amount of counteracting forces to open up her joints. From this position, she is also able to perform some important core strengthening exercises.
Mary also walks and works on side shuffling using an underwater treadmill, which helps her to maintain cardiovascular fitness, improve her hip function and build muscle mass.
Pain Management Health Center (by WebMd) Chronic pain affects an estimated 86 million American adults to some degree. Here you’ll find the latest information on chronic pain treatments, as well as natural ways to manage your chronic pain. Plus, get help daily in our online support group.
Back Pain Health Center (by WebMd) Back pain affects 80% of Americans at some time in their lives. Here you’ll find in-depth articles about the causes of back pain and back pain relief — from exercises to medical treatments.