Pain and exercise cannot go together, can they?

Musculoskeletal disorders consist of conditions where a part of the musculoskeletal system is injured or affected over time. Symptoms include pain, discomfort in the bones, joints, muscles, or surrounding structures, which can be acute or chronic. These musculoskeletal disorders can occur either through natural aging, work, sports or some hobby.  The most frequent musculoskeletal disorders are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain.

Almost always, one of the primary remedy cited for many such disorders is to bring one’s weight under control. Excess weight can expedite the joint degeneration. There are several recommended diets including the one called “The Healing Diet” or the “Arthritis Diet” that can help with weight control.

However, a serious challenge faced by patients who are already overweight is that the painful joints do not allow them to do much when it comes to exercising. Lack of mobility results in a further increase of weight and a vicious cycle begins.

As a practicing physiotherapist, many times, my patients ask about safer and practical ways to reduce weight and hydrotherapy is always on the top of my list of recommendations!

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy (also called aquatic therapy or water-based exercises) uses the principles of water to allow exercise and to alter exercise intensity. Increased buoyancy (opposite to gravity) provides more exercise than is permitted on land. Increased temperature and hydrostatic pressure promote increases in circulation and flexibility and a decrease in swelling.

Water offers natural resistance, which helps strengthen the muscles. The effects of water resistance, for instance, drag forces, may increase energy expenditure and decrease mechanical loads on lower extremity joints. The buoyancy of water reduces pressure on the bones, joints and muscles facilitating movements, and may block pain reception by acting on thermal receptors and mechanoreceptors, thus influencing segmental spinal mechanisms. Apart from various specific techniques, simple exercises such as general boy movements and walking in water might be beneficial because water's natural buoyancy allows many body movements by providing a type of mass support.

Aquatic exercises are frequently used to maintain or improve function for people with musculoskeletal disorders, especially arthritis. Exercise in water is a popular treatment for many patients with musculoskeletal conditions.

Hydrotherapy is a popular treatment for many patients with musculoskeletal disorders and seems a beneficial treatment in patients with osteoarthritis, low back pain, and fibromyalgia.

 Advantages of aquatic exercises 

  • Greatly reduces pain
  • Decreases joint stress/stiffness
  • Increases strength and range of motion
  • Reduces muscle spasms
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Improve aerobically and cardiovascular capacity
  • Patients start therapy earlier and recover faster

 When is hydrotherapy most helpful? 

  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Repetitive motion injury
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Obesity
  • Back pain and shoulder pain
  • Amputations
  • Lymphedema
  • Prolonged inactivity/immobility
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Hip, knee, or ankle pain
  • Brain or spinal cord injuries
  • Bariatric care
  • Neurological disorders, such as stroke, cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis

So, if you are grappling with the vexing question of how to lose weight when your joints hurt, consider hydrotherapy as one of the most relaxing, rejuvenating and reliable ways to lose excess weight.