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  • Writer's pictureCornerstonePT

The Healing Power of Water

Did you know the leading cause of adult disability in the United States is arthritis? Fifty four million adults have been di

agnosed with arthritis. In this article we are going to dive into knee and hip osteoarthritis (OA), risk factors, and how exercise through low impact means such as a pool can help.

Risk factors for developing painful osteoarthritis at the knee include genetics, age, gender, being overweight or obese, history of trauma, having other chronic health conditions, or doing a significant amount of daily heavy lifting, bending, kneeling or squatting. Many of the same are true for hip OA in addition to previous hip injury or history of hip developmental disorders, decreased hip range of motion (especially turning the hip inward), and presence of osteophytes.

The most common risk factors for developing painful osteoarthritis at the knees/hips are age and obesity. While we can’t do anything about our age, our weight can be something changed. For every one pound of weight gained it increases knee pressures by three pounds and hip pressure by six pounds. Conversely, if you lose five pounds, that equates to losing fifteen pounds of stress at the knees and thirty pounds at the hips!

Being that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, chances are you yourself may experience it or most definitely know people who do. So what can you do to help manage your symptoms? One thing is to talk with your healthcare provider about ways to reduce stress on the joints, either through weight loss, low impact exercise or often a combination of both.

The use of water therapy or water aerobics has long been a tried and true means for those dealing with painful arthritis to manage their symptoms and improve their strength and mobility. Why chose water for arthritis? Firstly, water can provide graded weight bearing. The deeper you are, the less body weight your joints experience. In this regards a person can start in deeper water and gradually progress back to land as their strength and pain improves. Water also provides trunk support which is often an additional issue patients with knee and hip OA experience. Water also decreases the stress on the tissue, increases blood flow which helps with oxygenation of tissues and aids the removal of metabolic waste. Water therapy/aerobics also reduces edema (swelling). Did you know controlling edema is very important? In fact, it only takes 20ml of extra fluid at the knee to reduce the ability of your quadriceps muscle to appropriately fire.

The properties of water allow exercise to be passive, active or resistive depending on what the goals are. Water walking helps reduce antalgic (painful) gait patterns and compensations. When walking at identical land and water speeds, the important leg muscles called the vastus medialis, rectus femoris, biceps femoris and gastrocnemius muscle all show more activity in the pool versus on land.

For many sufferers of painful hip and

knee OA, a joint replacement may be needed. What is wonderful about the pool is it can be used to build the person's strength, stamina, and balance pre-operatively and can also be used post operatively to recover after total hip or total knee replacement. Multiple studies have found that post total knee and total hip joint replacement outcomes in the pool are just as good as those who did their therapy on land. For many, being in the pool allows for better therapy compliance. If you suffer from osteoarthritis you are encouraged to talk with your healthcare professional about ways to manage your symptoms.

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