Hydrotherapy For Pain & Stiffness

Hydrotherapy is the use of water for therapeutic purposes. Different methods and temperatures may be used for different purposes.

Hydrotherapy includes the use of steam and ice as well as warm, tepid or cool water. Most people with chronic stiffness and pain prefer warm water, although the use of cold can also be very effective in relieving pain, and if applied immediately after exercise can significantly reduce post-exercise pain.

Warm water can relieve the pain and stiffness caused by knee osteoarthritis and knee injuries. (Do not use heat in the acute stages of an injury - use cold to reduce the inflammation) Moist heat penetrates more quickly and more deeply into the tissues than dry heat.

Soaking in Warm Water

A warm bath can ease pain and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis or an injury. (In the case of an acute knee injury wait a few days - until the inflammation subsides) Soaking in a regular bathtub of warm water increases circulation, promotes healing, helps relax tense muscles and relieves stress. Stress can heighten one's perception of pain. Adding an essential oil such as lavender or chamomile to the water or burning an aromatherapy candle contributes to a soothing atmosphere. Listening to recorded sounds such as sound of rain falling, or a waterfall, or the sounds of the ocean can also by very calming. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Over this can cause overheating of the tissues. Soaking may be done several times per day.

Benefits of Water Exercises (warm or cool)

The properties of water that provide protection for the joints include buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, and resistance.

Buoyancy: The buoyancy of the water supports the majority of the weight of the body, so there is minimal stress placed upon the knee joints - or any of the weight-bearing joints. Neck-deep water supports 90% of body weight; chest-deep water supports 75%; waist-deep water supports 50%.

Hydrostatic pressure: The pressure that water exerts on the body reduces swelling of joints and also helps prevent or reduce post exercise pain.

Resistance: The muscles must work harder to perform any movement in water than on land because of the resistant properties of the water. This allows one to increase the workload of the muscles without adding stress to the joints. The harder the large muscles (legs and arms) are worked, the harder the heart and lungs have to work to supply them with oxygen. Exercising underwater allows for a high-intensity aerobic workout that is easy on the knees and other joints.

While water exercises can be performed in any swimming pool, the temperature of the water is usually warmer for exercise classes for people with arthritis.

*High intensity aerobic exercises should be performed in cooler water to avoid overheating.

Additional Benefits of Exercising in Warm Water

Exercise is essential for those with knee osteoarthritis for keeping the muscles that support the knee strong and improving range of motion. However, the pain of osteoarthritis often makes it difficult to begin exercising. Exercising in warm water increases circulation, which helps ease pain and loosens up stiff muscles and joints, making it easier to perform exercises.

Often, water exercises to loosen up the muscles and improve range of motion are performed in a warmer pool, and higher intensity aerobic exercises are performed in a cooler pool to avoid overheating.