Is hydrotherapy good for arthritis?

We get asked all the time if hydrotherapy is good for arthritis.

Now this is somewhat tricky to answer and does depend on a lot of things.

As per the research pretty much all exercise is good for arthritis. And no exercise is linked to causing arthritis.

Back many, many years ago when the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane had a hydrotherapy pool I did some work there. Some really amazing things happened in that pool.

BUT… most of the amazing stuff happened for people with a neurological condition like cerebral palsy, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and so on. During my stint there they were also doing research on getting people into the pool the day after they had a knee replacement done. This too was really great in that early stage post surgery.

Nearly every “arthritis” patient enjoyed their time. But I’d argue they enjoyed things like the heated pool and socialising with the other people in the pool.

I personally have a bit of a gripe with the blanket prescription of hydrotherapy for anyone with pain.

Firstly, it requires a lot of equipment like a pool. This might mean that you need to travel to get there or perhaps there is no pool to access at all. Arthritis is a lifelong condition, so whatever you pick to manage it needs to be accessible all the time.

Then you need a heated pool ideally indoors for those winter months. If this isn’t possible again you’ve lost your management strategy and will get relapses of pain in winter.

The last thing is that doing exercises in the pool actually minimises the effects of gravity making it lighter work on your muscles. A lot of people with arthritis complain of pain getting out of a chair, using stairs, lifting something. If you only do hydrotherapy, these activities will most likely not improve.

Where I think hydrotherapy works the best is when it is combined with the right resistance exercises.

Sometimes the resistance exercises might be too painful. Then it’s important that a skilled physiotherapist assesses the area to find the true driver of the pain. The true driver is often de-conditioned or inhibited muscles rather than the arthritic joint itself.

If this blog has triggered any questions I’d love to hear them. Please get in touch with us on (07) 4999 9773 so I can help you with your arthritis.

Arthritis is a really common problem, so please like and share this with your friends.

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