Sink Or Swim: How Hydrotherapy Can Treat Your Osteoarthritis & Osteoporosis

If you have just been diagnosed with osteoarthritis or osteoporosis—conditions that damage the joints and bones respectively—you may be distraught since there is no cure at present. However, these conditions are very manageable with a combination of diet changes, medications, and appropriate exercises—such as those seen in hydrotherapy. Take a look at what hydrotherapy is, how it can help, and how to get started.

What is Hydrotherapy?

Degenerative bone and joint diseases create a catch-22 situation: in order to improve your conditions you need to exercise, but if you do the wrong kind of exercise the pain in your bones and joints can become exacerbated. For instance, advises people with osteoarthritis to avoid high-impact activities, like running, or anything with dynamic abdominal motion. Hydrotherapy, on the other hand, is simply a therapy in which patients use water to treat a disease—hydrotherapy for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis patients focuses on strength exercises that use the water's natural resistance. These exercises are great because the water buoys patients up and eliminates the high-impact element of many sports and exercises.

How Can it Help?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, one study showed that although a gym-based program beat out a hydrotherapy program in some strength areas, participants in the hydrotherapy group still made functional and strength gains compared to a control group.

Long-distance swimmer Jane Katz says that hydrotherapy is beneficial because it is a perfect exercise for seniors—who are especially at risk for developing osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Hydrotherapy is able to improve blood flow, increase range of motion, take pressure off of joints, and reduce stiffness and pain.

How Can You Get Started?

First you will need to get the go-ahead from your doctor to pursue this activity. Your doctor may have other arthritis treatments or other therapies in mind. Once you've gotten the go-ahead, you can either find a class on your own or do your own exercises. Some hydrotherapy classes follow current workout trends. For instance, some clubs do Aqua Zumba, a class where the teacher will do Hip-Hop/Latin moves on the pool deck, and those in the pool will do modified versions in the pool.

If you decide to work out on your own, some easy exercises you can do on your own include lunges, walking, jogging, sidesteps, hip kicks, arm raises, side-of-the-pool push-ups, and the like. Some therapies focus more on stretches and relaxation poses; for instance, there is a hybrid therapy called "Ai Chi," which is similar to Tai Chi and performed in the water. Once you build up enough strength, you may want to invest in a pair of webbed gloves or arm paddles since you won't be able to use barbells or dumbbells in the pool.

For more information on hydrotherapy and other therapies, be sure to talk with your doctor.