Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition that is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. Cartilage helps to facilitate smooth movement and acts as a shock absorbing surface. When cartilage breaks down in joints, the joint surfaces become rough and no longer move smoothly over each other, resulting in pain, stiffness and swelling in the joint. Due to the loss of shock absorbing capabilities, higher impact exercise like aerobics and jogging can become painful and unbearable. In severe cases of Osteoarthritis even walking can be painful.
Common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis are:
- Stiff and swollen joints
- Restricted joint range of motion
- Pain following activity
- Pain following a period of inactivity, for example, pain in the morning after lying down all night
Exercise is an extremely important part of the management for osteoarthritis as it helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding arthritic joints, therefore helping to support and control the joint during movement. Hydrotherapy, or water based exercise, is an excellent exercise option for people with osteoarthritis as the water decreases the pressure placed on the joints.
How does hydrotherapy work?
When someone is immersed in water, the buoyant force of the water counteracts the downward pull of gravity, which then reduces the weight placed on the submerged joints. Research indicates that when someone is in waist deep in water, 50% of their body weight is supported, while 90% of weight is supported in neck deep water. Some benefits of hydrotherapy include:
- Reduced impact and jarring on joints
- Decreased weight bearing and increased range of joint motion due to buoyancy
- Cardiovascular training by doing aerobic exercises in water
- Reduced muscle tension as the warm water increases blood flow to muscles, thereby reducing muscle tension and assisting in relaxation
- Natural pain relief by minimising weight placed on the joints
- Social interaction
- Exercises are self-paced and easily progressed depending on symptom severity
Fleurieu Physiotherapy & Wellness offer weekly hydrotherapy classes and all exercises are specific to everyone’s needs. If you think hydrotherapy may be for you, call Fleurieu Physiotherapy & Wellness on 8528 7650 or click to book online for an Initial Hydrotherapy Assessment.