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Benefits of Aquatic Therapy for the Arthritic Patient

by Athletico6 Comments

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by Jennifer Schachner, PT, DPT.

With summer officially here and the beautiful and unseasonably warm days we have had over the last months, many of us have probably been daydreaming about days spent at the beach, or we have already been splashing around and relaxing at a pool in our spare time. But did you know that for the 50 million Americans affected by arthritis in one of its many forms, being in water can be more than just summer-time fun? Here are the top three benefits of aquatic therapy.

Aquatic therapy benefits the arthritic patient.Decreases Stress on Joints
Water drastically reduces the stress placed through joints through the principles of buoyancy. Buoyancy is an upward force exerted by liquid, gas, or other fluid that opposes the weight of an immersed object. In practical terms, a 200-pound male would weigh about 16-20 pounds in fresh water. If we consider that every one pound of body weight exerts 4-5 pounds of force through the knees, these are really big numbers for our patients! With decreased stress and load being placed through joints, exercise is easier and less painful to perform. This is hugely beneficial for people who have lost range of motion, flexibility, and strength due to pain, and have otherwise limited function and mobility on dry land.

Reduces Swelling and Improves Proprioception
Another benefit of being in water is due to the result of hydrostatic pressure. As therapists, we can use this principle to help reduce swelling and to improve proprioception in our patients. In applicable terms, the deeper a limb is submerged in water, the greater the compressive force that is placed on that limb. This helps aide in venous return and creates a comfortable and easily tolerable compression, which assists in decreasing joint and soft-tissue edema. Also, because pressure is produced perpendicular to the body’s surface, the constant contact on the skin helps patients become more aware of where their arms and legs are in space and time. This is important in patients who are compensating and have poor postural awareness due to chronic arthritic conditions.

Strengthens Muscles without Weights
Using water’s resistance, coupled with water’s buoyancy, patients can strengthen muscle groups with decreased joint stress that would not be possible on land. In patient care, this allows for muscle strengthening without the need of weights.

Not everyone has the luxury of being near and having easy access to a pool. We at Athletico have the unique opportunity to reach and treat a large number of people who may benefit from this type of therapy at one of our 6 locations offering aquatic therapy including Addison, Bannockburn, Buffalo Grove, Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Willowbrook. We love summer, the pool, the sunny weather, and everything that it brings, but let’s keep in mind the people whose quality of life we can positively affect through the incorporation of aquatic therapy!

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  1. Christine Hansley

    I have been a patient of the Tinley Park, IL Athletico twice. Both times for knee injuries. It would have been nice if they had had an aquatic therapy area. You need to have an aquatic facility in the Southwest suburbs. Doing aquatic therapy at the local chain gym by myself without a therapist to make sure I was doing the excerises properly did not make the experience pleasant. I was always concerned I might be prolonging the injury instead of recovering from it.
    Thank you.

  2. Mickey Rowen

    Where is the closest Athletico with a pool? Do any of them have zero entry? I have had spinal surgery and resultant lower body paralysis. I’ve been doing therapy for almost two years and now use a walker so getting into a pool could be a problem.

    Thank you,

    Mickey Rowen

  3. Julie Ressler

    Athletico has and is continuing to make all the difference in my life every day. Through their good work, I am gaining strength and flexibility,slowly, slowly.I have much less pain than when I started and hope that I will one day be pain free….One more surgery and help from Athletico in the rehab process.

  4. rachel frampton

    My dad has been wanting to try aqua therapy because he heard that this may help improve his flexibility. It’s also interesting to learn that this type of therapy can make exercising less painful. Thank you for clarifying here that it is beneficial in terms of decreasing joint edema as well.

  5. Dianne Miller

    I appreciate your mentioning that aquatic therapy strengthens muscles and decreases joint stress. My sister has been experiencing joint pains for the past few days. I think that it would be good for her to try hydrotherapy. It’s a piece of additional information that water’s resistance, coupled with water’s buoyancy, patients can strengthen muscle groups with decreased joint stress.

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