Aquatic Therapy for Osteoarthritis
Pool exercises offer pain relief for hip & knee osteoarthritis sufferers
Relief for the pain, stiffness, and physical limitations of osteoarthritis may be easier than you think. Swimming and aquatic physical therapy offer measurable symptom relief, and there's a body of research to back it up!
While any pool can work for aquatic therapy for hip and knee osteoarthritis, special therapy pools can be customized for your needs. A therapy pool can also be assembled in your home for year-round treatment.
Let's take a look at the ailment, the research and results, and your options for at-home aquatic physical therapy for osteoarthritis.
What is Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of cartilage and bone around the joints. It can be a painful condition that limits your mobility, flexibility, and in advanced cases, your independence later in life. It can afflict any joints, including your knees, hips, spine, and fingers.
Typically, osteoarthritis strikes in middle age or later. Other factors associated with an increased risk of osteoarthritis: genetics, strenuous repetitive motions, obesity, and diabetes.
While we don't yet have a cure, we do have options for pain relief and symptom management. One non-pharmaceutical treatment requires only a pool. With aquatic physical therapy for osteoarthritis, sufferers can get a range of benefits for greater comfort and an improved quality of life.
A solid body of research confirms the benefits of aquatic physical therapy for hip and knee osteoarthritis.
Aquatic Physical Therapy for Osteoarthritis
Aquatic physical therapy has been shown to result in less joint pain and stiffness as well as greater physical function and overall improved quality of life. Adults with knee or hip osteoarthritis had easier times doing basic tasks of daily life, thanks to aquatic therapy.
Many of the study participants found aquatic therapy to be enjoyable, relaxing, and sustainable. One study even found that, after the six-week intervention ended, 84 percent of the participants with continued with their aquatic therapy independently. We love the feeling of immersing ourselves in water, and that puts osteoarthritis relief within easier reach!
Swimming as Aquatic Therapy for Osteoarthritis
Swimming is one form of aquatic therapy. A total-body exercise, swimming can be of great help to people with osteoarthritis. Since many people swim for the sheer enjoyment of it, swimming can be an easily sustainable therapy that you may even look forward to!
A three-month study at the University of Texas at Austin found that regular swimming reduced the joint pain and stiffness common with osteoarthritis. The study participants, all middle-aged and older adults, also saw improved muscle strength and great functional capacity from regular swimming.
Water Walking for Osteoarthritis
Some therapy pools, including those offered by Endless Pools®, offer an underwater treadmill. They're just like treadmills on dry land but with a few perks.
Water's buoyancy takes the weight and impact off the body, making walking and jogging easier for people with physical limitations.
Water provides 360-degree resistance for a more thorough workout – even while it's still accessible to almost all fitness levels.
Water's hydrostatic pressure promotes recovery; people who exercise in water report less post-workout soreness.
By using an underwater treadmill, seniors with knee osteoarthritis found reduced joint pain as well as improved mobility, balance, and function; that's according to a six-week study out of Utah State University.
Another study of adults with knee osteoarthritis found that underwater treadmill walking led to measurable improvements in walking. They were able to walk more quickly and demonstrated greater hip and knee flexibility. Most striking of all, they felt significantly less pain from water walking than from physical therapy on dry land.
Aquatic Therapy Options for Osteoarthritis
Some physical therapy facilities offer pools for their patients with painful, debilitating ailments. Endless Pools offers residential models for on-demand aquatic physical therapy for osteoarthritis.
Our Original Series pools feature our signature current to allow you to swim in place. If you're swimming as aquatic therapy for osteoarthritis, the Endless Pools current lets you swim without interruption for a more effective use of your therapy time.
For non-swimmers, our WaterWell® pool gives you temperature-controlled water for at-home aquatic therapy for osteoarthritis. Like our Original Series pools, our WaterWell pool can be fitted with our exclusive Underwater Treadmill.
If you suffer from osteoarthritis, aquatic therapy can relieve some of your pain and help lift some of your physical limitations. Explore how you can benefit from a therapy pool near you or by bringing a therapy pool into your home.
"Randomized controlled trial of aquatic exercise for treatment of knee osteoarthritis in elderly people." Interventional Medicine & Applied Science, 2019;11(3):161–167
"Aquatic Exercise Program for Individuals with Osteoarthritis: Pain, Stiffness, Physical Function, Self-Efficacy." Rehabilitation Nursing Journal, 2019 Sept-Oct;44(5):290-299.
"Aquatic Physical Therapy for Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: Results of a Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial." Physical Therapy, 2007; 84:32-43.
"High-Intensity Interval Training on an Aquatic Treadmill in Adults with Osteoarthritis: Effect on Pain, Balance, Function and Mobility." The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2014 Aug;28(8):2088-96.
"Acute Aquatic Treadmill Exercise Improves Gait and Pain in People with Knee Osteoarthritis." Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2012 Nov; 94. 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.10.027.
"Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis." Journal of Rheumatology, 2016 Mar;43(3):666-72