Water Exercise for Arthritis


What is Arthritis? Arthritis refers to inflammation or stiffness at a joint. There are many different types of arthritis but one of the most common types is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage, which is located at the ends of bones and provides cushion between two bones, starts to wear away. If this cushion is not there the two bones start to rub against each other which can result in: pain, swelling, and stiffness. This is very common with the aging process but many assume there is no solution for their knee and back pain. There is a solution though…water exercise!

Water exercise is an excellent choice, especially for those suffering from osteoarthritis! Many people with arthritis who participate in land based exercises complain of excruciating joint pain. This is why water exercise is a great option! The water relieves the pressure on the hip, back, knee joints allowing the joint to move freely without the compression felt on land. The water has a property called buoyancy which allows this to happen. The buoyancy counteracts the downward pressure of gravity and lifts the body up.

Exercise: Life-long exercise is important for people with osteoarthritis. It is important because osteoarthritis is not something that can magically be cured and therefore strategies are needed to help to manage it. One of the ways to manage it is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint. Strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint, such as the knee, help to hold the knee in a good position and also offset some of the load. Water exercise is a great option due to the above-mentioned property of buoyancy. The water will help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint in a non-stressful way. Some key exercises that would be beneficial for someone with knee osteoarthritis would be: marching up and down the side of the pool, practicing walking forward, backward and sideways and doing leg kicks. One thing that people with osteoarthritis complain of is walking up and down stairs. You can even practice walking up and down a step in the water to strengthen those muscles.

Flexibility: The stiffness experienced with osteoarthritis is very common because there is a reduction of cartilage between the two bones. The cartilage acts as a barrier to the two bones rubbing together. Increasing flexibility by stretching both the hamstrings and calf muscles is one way to help to reduce knee pain. These muscles are located both above and below the knee and influence how the knee moves while walking, climbing up and down stairs and many other activities.

Food and Nutrition: A healthy body weight and lifestyle is something that anyone with osteoarthritis should consider when trying to manage their symptoms. A healthy body weight is vital because the more weight and force acting on a joint such as the knee causes more stress resulting in more pain. A study was completed in 2013 which concluded that when walking the force acting on our knee is 2-3 times our body weight meanwhile when running that number is closer to 5-6 times our body weight. Another study conducted in 2005 by Meisser et al. stated that for every pound lost there was a fourfold reduction in the force exerted on the knee per step during daily activities. This is great news! It means that even losing a few pounds could make an astronomical difference in stress on the knee and therefore reducing pain!

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