Specifically tailored towards osteoarthritis, one free treatment option provided by the NHS has been proven to ease sore and painful joints. What is it?
First, what is osteoarthritis? The charity Versus Arthritis explained this type of arthritis can affect any joint in the body.
However, it’s more commonly found in the joints that bear most of our weight, such as the knees and feet.
Osteoarthritis is when the cartilage (smooth and slippery tissue), located at the end of bones, begins to thin and roughen.
This means the joint is unable to move as smoothly as it normally would, which puts the body into repair mode.
During osteoarthritis, changes to the joint structure can contribute to pain, swelling and difficulty moving the joint.
Dysfunctional repair processes can include extra bones forming at the edge of the join (i.e. osteocytes).
Or, the lining of the joint capsule may thicken and produce more fluid, causing swollen joints.
Have you heard of hydrotherapy? It involves performing exercises in a warm-water pool.
This is usually warmer than a regular swimming pool, as the temperature reaches up to 36ºC.
Typically based in a hospital’s physiotherapy department, a specialised instructor shows you how to do the exercises safely.
The range of movement, or strength applied, will be tailored to your individual needs.
Hydrotherapy tends to focus on slow, controlled movements and relaxation, and it can benefit you in a number of ways.
For example, the warmth of the water enables the muscles to relax and eases the pain in the joints; this makes it easier to perform exercises.
In addition, the water helps to support your weight thereby relieving pain and increasing the range of movement in your joints.
The water can also be used as resistance training, helping to improve muscle strength.
It’s expected to feel a bit tired after completing a hydrotherapy workout, but it’s one of the safest treatments for the condition.
If you’re interested in a self-referral, check with your GP or call your local rheumatology department.
Qualified physiotherapists will be a member of the chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP).
A course of hydrotherapy usually involves up to six 30-minute sessions, which then can be replicated in a normal swimming pool.
Don’t believe that hydrotherapy is only suited to confident swimmers, non-swimmers will also be able to access hydrotherapy.
The heated pool is usually shallow enough to stand in, so non-swimmers can take advantage of the treatment.
It’s important to discuss this treatment plan with your physiotherapist or doctor, as it may not be suitable for some people.
Certain situations aren’t conducive for hydrotherapy, which include the following:
- A wound or skin infection
- A virus or stomach upset
- A raised temperature
- High or low blood pressure
- Breathing difficulties
- A kidney condition requiring dialysis
- Angina or heart problems
- A chest infection
- A chlorine allergy
- Uncontrolled diabetes, asthma or epilepsy
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