The Clinical Benefits of Aquatic Physiotherapy / Hydrotherapy for Arthritis in Adults

The clinical benefits of aquatic physiotherapy/hydrotherapy depend on the severity and type of arthritis (i.e., Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Gout etc), and the joints that are involved.

One of the great advantages of being in the hydrotherapy pool is that the weight relieving effect of buoyancy coupled with the relaxation induced by the heat of the water reduces pain on exercise and activity and creates traction at the joints reducing compressive forces on irregular joint and cartilaginous surfaces.

It is therefore possible to train muscle and strengthen around affected joints without the limiting factors of pain, muscle spasm, limitation of movement and discomfort.

Additional benefits of Aquatic Physiotherapy / Hydrotherapy for Arthritis include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain relief using Watsu®, mobilising, Aquastretch and Aquaepps® techniques, and due to the physiological effects of immersion in heated water inducing muscle relaxation, reducing muscle spasm and releasing endorphins.
  • Increased range of movement and flexibility due to the effects of heated immersion, gentle tractioning of joints and buoyancy.
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance using modified PNF and the properties of water reducing the strain through vulnerable joints and soft tissues.
  • Gait re-education in a reduced weightbearing environment.
  • Promotes balance in sitting and standing with reduced risk of falling, as the density of water allows more time to respond and react in different positions.
  • Increasing cardiovascular fitness as lower initial working capacity and effort required to exercise in water, and the positive physiological effects on the heart and lungs when immersed upright in heated water.
  • Work on respiratory function and breath control using Aquaepps® and Halliwick techniques, alongside trunk control and thoracic mobility is particularly useful for people suffering with ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Increasing functional activities using buoyancy, rotational effects and turbulent drag with specific PNF and Aquaepps® techniques.
  • If you have a joint replacement and are looking to return to your sport or are suffering from pain and stiffness, which affects your current sport then specific manoeuvres can be practiced in the pool.
  • Freedom of movement and ability to exercise all limbs at once if multiple joints are affected in this unencumbered environment.
  • Sensory stimulation and increased proprioception (awareness of where joints are in space) due to hydrostatic pressure of water against body and turbulent drag of water moving around body.

Further information about the how Aquatic Physiotherapy / Hydrotherapy can help people with arthritis is available at Versus Arthritis (formerly Arthritis Research UK), including their helpful Hydrotherapy and Arthritis Information Booklet.

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