Healing Waters: aquatic exercise

Pool with noodle EDIT long

Healing Waters: Osteoarthritis and Aquatics

Joint pain. Stiffness. Less movement. An estimated 27 million Americans live with osteoarthritis (OA), a painful, degenerative joint disease primarily affecting your cartilage. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, it’s the most common type of arthritis and predominantly occurs in the knees, hips, hands, and spine.

Cartilage is the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. Healthy cartilage allows bones to glide over each other and helps absorb the shock of movement. With osteoarthritis, the top layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, allowing bones under the cartilage to rub together, and often making the joint swell.

Many different factors are believed to play a role in whether or not you get osteoarthritis: genetics, age, obesity, injury or overuse.

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, several treatment options are available including exercise, weight control, physical therapy, non-drug pain relief techniques, bracing and medical equipment, prescription medicines, complementary and alternative therapies, and finally surgery.

Exercise is probably the most important thing each of us can do to maintain our health throughout our lifetime. But for people who have this disease, just moving a joint can be painful.

Telling a patient in pain to exercise doesn’t really put a smile on their face. That’s when aquatic therapy can help. Whether a patient requires surgery or not, this exercise can help a patient with limited mobility regain his or her strength without the added stress of weight or gravity. Harnett Health offers both aquatic therapy and aquatic exercise classes at Betsy Johnson Hospital in Dunn.

For patients who have had surgery or have significant limitations in range of motion, strength, or endurance, aquatic therapy may be an option. With aquatic therapy, a physical therapist works individually with the patient in the pool providing them with one-on-one instruction as part of their physical therapy program.

Aquatic exercise is a class environment without the direct supervision of a physical therapist but led by an aquatic exercise instructor. Bobbie Barbour who has been an aquatic exercise instructor with the hospital since 2005 says, “We have several different exercise routines for people who use this program. We customize the program to each person’s ability and the speed at which they are comfortable doing the routines. If they can only do three leg lifts with correct form, that’s three they didn’t do yesterday.”

Not only are range-of-motion exercises important but equally important is the cardiac workout. “We have a variety of water toys such as noodles, weights, dumbbells, and scoops to get your heart pumping,” says Bobbie. “When someone comes in here with a bad knee, they need to work on those muscles but they need to work on the most important one, too… their heart muscle.”

Aquatic exercise can help a person regain enough strength and mobility to eventually be successful with an exercise program out of the pool. Aquatic exercise classes are not usually covered by insurance, but the prices are very reasonable. A two-day per week program is less than forty dollars a month, and a three-day per week program is under fifty dollars a month. To participate, a physician’s clearance is required.

If you would like more information on Aquatic Exercise or Aquatic Therapy, please call Harnett Health’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Department at 910-892-1000 x4610.

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