Try Swimming For Joint Pain Relief

The lazy poolside days of summer are fading as the leaves fall, but slipping into an indoor pool can be a great way to rehabilitate painful joints as the weather turns cold.

Mention a swimming pool, and thoughts turn immediately to lounge chairs, icy drinks, and the scent of tropical sunscreen. But a pool can be about rehabilitation as well as recreation. In fact, the weightlessness provided by water can help speed joint healing by reducing the pressure of irritable, swollen joints.

The buoyancy of water unloads painful joints of the weight they must normally carry. A patient immersed waist deep in the water removes approximated 50 percent of the weight borne by lower joints. Immersion to shoulder height takes away an additional 25 percent of joint-borne weight. When a patient works joints while submerged to the shoulders, the joints bear only 25 percent of the stresses they usually carry; this is why water rehabilitation can restore joints to optimal function faster and with less pain.

Pool exercises require a stable cardiovascular system. Patients with cardiac restrictions, a fear of water, a current infection, or incontinence issues are not good candidates for aquatic therapy. However, many other patients benefit from therapy in a pool maintained at bathwater temperatures (92 degrees), including those with the following conditions:

  • Acute injury to a joint
  • Joint surgery recuperation following incision healing
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic joint pain
  • Some neurological issues
  • Patients with balance disorders or difficulty walking

Aquatic therapy encourages constant movement, with short breaks as needed. Patients are able to perform a higher volume of exercise in the water, versus on land, because they weigh less. The goal is to build strength, keep heart rate up, and promote joint function sooner than would be possible out of water.

If you like the idea of an aquatic exercise for your joints, talk with your physician or physical therapist about developing an exercise program that’s right for you. You may find yourself enjoying pool-related activity—and healthier joints—all winter long.

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