Pool and Arthritis
Warmth support and relaxation
Exercises in water can be most helpful and enjoyable for people with arthritis.
Water can provide warmth and support (buoyancy) which can facilitate the exercising of joints affected by arthritis. Spas can provide ready access to warm water exercises in the home. Soaking in warm water allows muscles to become relaxed which can then make it easier to perform exercises and carry out daily tasks. Relaxed muscles can also create an overall feeling of comfort. Pool also enable people with arthritis to relax and exercise their joints often in the company of others. Pools offer more space than spas allowing for a wider variety and more vigorous exercises.
In this article
Provided here is information on the benefits of warm water exercises and specific examples of water exercises that have been helpful for individuals with arthritis. At the end of this section is some detailed information for those who are considering using or purchasing a home spa or pool. If your doctor or other health professionals advise you to follow a regular program of water exercises and this medical treatment is your primary reason for buying a home spa or pool all or a part of your purchase price may qualify for income tax deduction as a medical expense.
Benefits of water exercise
Keeps joints moving
Pain in your joints may make you want to hold them very still as moving can be painful. However immobilizing your joints or not using them will over time cause the joints ligaments and muscles to lose range of motion and weaken. Muscles may also shorten and tighten up causing you to feel more pain and stiffness and be less able to do the things you want to do.
Regular exercise helps keep joints moving restores and preserves flexibility and strength and protects joints against further damage. Exercise can also improve a person's coordination endurance and ability to perform daily tasks and can lead to an enhanced sense of self-esteem and accomplishment.
Exercising in water is a gentle way to exercise joints and muscles. The buoyancy of the water supports and lessens stress on the joints and encourages freer movement. Water may also act as resistance to help build muscle strength. Consult your doctor to determine whether water exercises are appropriate for you.
The use of heat is recommended for many people with arthritis but not all. Your doctor can help you determine if it is appropriate for you. People whose arthritis symptoms respond well to heat have discovered many benefits. They have found that heat can to a great extent relax their muscles decrease pain and stiffness and allow them to move through their exercises and daily activities with greater ease.
Warm water is an especially good way to deliver and distribute heat to many parts of the body. Extremely hot water is not safe and is not necessary to get results. Mild heat is just as effective and easier for the body to tolerate. The water temperature should feel soothing and comfortable not hot. In a pool water temperatures between 83 to 88 degrees are usually comfortable for people who are exercising. People who are just soaking or doing very gentle movements while sitting in a spa can usually tolerate higher temperatures. Soaking time will vary depending on the water temperature and an individual's tolerance to heat. New spa users should vary the temperature and length of stay until they can determine what is most comfortable. Start slowly and extend the time in the spa as tolerated. For most people soaking time should not exceed 10-15 minutes at temperatures between 98-104 degrees. Remember too that children and elderly persons are more prone to become overheated.
Doctors often advise that people with arthritis soak in warm water in the morning before beginning their daily activities. This is a time when many people find that pain and stiffness is at its worst. It may be just as beneficial to use spas or warm water pools at other times: in the afternoon to help relax muscles and joints after a full day of activities; to loosen muscles before doing exercises; in the evening before bedtime to bring on a restful sleep.
Warm water exercises
When first entering a spa or pool relax and enjoy the soothing water. When your muscles and joints feel more comfortable and relaxed slowly begin your exercise routine. Allow enough time after exercising to again relax muscles before getting out of the water.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends the following guidelines when doing water exercises:
Forward arm reach (flexion):
Arm circles (combined motions):
Elbow bend (flexion/extension):
Wrist and fingers
Wrist turn (supination/pronation):
Hand and fingers
Finger hold (thumb opposition):
Ankle and toes
Hip and knee
Knee bend (flexion/extension):
Side bend (flexion):
Buying a spa
Thinking of buying a spa?
The spa and pool industry has made it more convenient for people to own install and receive the benefits of a spa or pool in their own home. Spas and pools can be installed inside or outside your home.
Before purchasing a spa or pool you may want to consider the following:
Most companies will allow potential buyers to sit in a spa to determine which model is most comfortable and best suited to their needs.
As a consumer of health care ask questions. Judge for yourself the effects and safety of a spa or pool as you would with any new treatment method for arthritis before you try it. Ask your doctor if you need more information.
The National Spa and Pool Institute an international trade association of more than 5 000 manufacturers distributors retailers service companies and builders in the pool/spa and hot tub industry publishes consumer brochures about pools and spas. For more information contact NSPI 2111 Eisenhower Avenue Alexandria VA 22314 (703) 838-0083.
If you own or are planning to purchase a spa or pool you are encouraged to use it safely. Ask your sales representative for a booklet containing general safety tips and also follow the medical precautions listed below:
Some of this material may also be available in an Arthritis Foundation brochure. Contact the Washington/Alaska Chapter Helpline: (800) 542-0295. If dialing from outside of WA and AK contact the National Helpline: (800) 283-7800.
Adapted from a pamphlet originally prepared for the Arthritis Foundation. This material is protected by copyright.