Hydrotherapy is an excellent option for long-term management of rheumatology conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis and Fibromyalgia. In this blog post, our physio and Bristol Manager Leanne Plenge explains the top reasons why hydrotherapy is so effective.
The ‘upward push’ of the water on a human body means that we are lighter in the water than we are walking around on land. This can vary depending on the depth of the water but it means less pressure on joints and tissues when walking in water. This upward push can be used to work against as well by pushing down on floats to strengthen muscles.
The water used in hydrotherapy pools is normally warmer than room air temperature. This allows tissues within the body to become more flexible and so more easily stretched and moved. The combined effect of both warmth and buoyancy provides an element of natural pain relief as the effect of the raised temperature on our nerve endings stimulates the release of natural painkillers.
Water is thicker than air and behaves variably. A good example of is when you walk in one direction in water and then try to change direction. The water will push you back and this resistance can be utilised to challenge muscles to work together, and to challenge balance to improve control. Working against this effort can also improve cardiovascular fitness.
Water is naturally compressive on the body and this increases the deeper you go. This is why deep-sea divers must be careful when descending to deep depths. For swollen joints this can be very useful at reducing swelling in ankles and feet when submerged in the water and reduced swelling can be helpful in improving pain and movement.
Exercising is not always easy to commit to long term, and most rheumatology conditions are long lasting. Doing exercise in an environment where you have fun, meet other people with a similar condition, and exercising in a relatively pain free state, means you are more likely to commit to exercising longer term and therefore see more of the benefits.
Exercising in the water feels and is safer as it is not easy to fall over. A lot of patients suffering with rheumatology conditions struggle with balance, and are prone to falling as their joint position is slightly altered, or pain and swelling means it is more difficult to balance effectively. Challenging this in a safe and careful way in water will allow balance to improve.
Easier Functional Movement
Some of the activities that people with a long-term condition struggle with out of the water, become achievable in the water. A good example of this is walking up the stairs, or standing up from a chair. These activities can be practiced and perfected in water, allowing the same activity on land to become that little bit easier.
A a variety of wonderful relaxation techniques can be used in a pool to promote calm, and decrease anxiety and tension, which in turn promotes good sleeping patterns. These techniques might include floating and ‘seaweeding’ – a technique where you float on your back whilst being held by a therapist, and moved gently from side to side to allow tension to leave the body.