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Hit the Pool to Relieve Joint Pain

Osteoarthritis affects more than 30 million adults in the United States. Arthritis causes changes in the joint and may lead to stiffness, decreased muscle strength, impaired balance, decreased functional mobility, and pain. Traditional interventions for management of osteoarthritis include medication, injections, bracing, utilization of assistive device such as a cane, weight management, surgery, and physical therapy.

At the Maine Strong Balance Center, we focus on how an individualized course of exercise can help. Your therapist will perform an evaluation to determine appropriate interventions to achieve your personal goals and decrease pain, improve mobility, stability, and safety. Exercises for arthritis may include a combination of flexibility, aerobic exercise, and strengthening. Strengthening the muscles around a joint and in the limb affected by arthritis Improves control and stability of the joint and aides in maintaining and improving function.

Aquatic therapy refers to therapeutic exercise and treatments performed in water. There are many properties of water that provide therapeutic benefits. Buoyancy assists in support of the body and joints effectively “unloading” the joint to improve tolerance to exercises and movement. Hydrostatic pressure provides compression around the joint to decrease swelling and increase range of motion. Drag Force creates resistance to strengthen muscles and allows for aerobic conditioning. These properties make exercising in the water more comfortable and beneficial for some people.

A common question we answer is how much does aquatic exercise actually help? A recent review article of the current literature is the best place to find data on the topic. This systematic review article form 2016 looked at 743 studies (many of which ended up being excluded for various disqualifying reasons) and ultimately included the data from 1190 participants. The review concludes that you can expect on average a 13% improvement in quality of life and a 5% improvement in pain. This incremental improvements with exercise in the pool can be highly significant and can be an important ingredient in an individual’s approach to treating arthritis.

The Maine Strong Balance Center provides Aquatic Physical Therapy in our own 16' x 20' heated pool at our clinic. The pool has stairs with a railing that lead into the shallow end. It is also handicap accessible with a lift.

Contact us at the Maine Strong Balance Center if you would like to learn more about aquatic therapy and how Physical Therapy may be able to help you.

(Article Referenced: Bartels EM et al. Aquatic Exercise for the Treatment of Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 3. Art No.: CD005523.)

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