Water is good for just about everything – including the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Read more from Laurie WJN on her blog, Looking on the Sunnyside.
Getting older often means feeling more aches and pains than we used to. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Arthritis affects 52 million Americans, making it one of the most common diseases in the United States. With the aging of the U.S. population, the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis is expected to increase in the coming decades. Although most of us think of the elderly as sufferers of arthritis, arthritis can affect individuals at any age.
The joint inflammation from arthritis can be very disabling, and many individuals are not satisfied with current traditional medical approaches and treatments. One very effective alternative approach is aquatic exercise. The soothing warmth and buoyancy of warm water make it a safe, ideal environment for relieving arthritis pain and stiffness.
Immersion in warm water raises they body’s temperature which causes blood vessels to dilate and increases circulation. Water supports the joints to encourage free movement. Regular exercise helps keep joints moving, restores and preserves flexibility and strength, and protects joints against further damage.
Water is the ideal medium in which to exercise or rehabilitate the body. There are four main reasons why water is so special: buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure, resistance and turbulence. The natural buoyancy of the water supports individuals and helps them achieve comfort of movement in the water that would be impossible on land.
Water provides an environment that reduces body weight by 90 percent when standing in shoulder-depth water. One of the most unique qualities of water exercise is the naturally occurring hydrostatic pressure. The pressure of the water surrounds the body, supporting the joints, reducing swelling and increasing range of motion.
The use of underwater exercise allows the muscles to be exercised in all directions. This is because water resistance is 12 times greater than air resistance. Finally, the movement of the water, or turbulence, can be varied to change the intensity of the workout. With all of these properties, water can provide a safe and supportive way to deal with the effects of arthritis.
The Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program (AFAP) is a water exercise program designed for people with all kinds of arthritis and related conditions. Classes are usually conducted two to three times per week at local pools for 45 to 60 minutes. Joining a water exercise class gives the opportunity to exercise in warm water with guidance from a trained instructor.
There are many current arthritis aquatic programs offered at various locations in your state, and you can receive a listing of programs by contacting the Arthritis Foundation at http://www.arthritis.org/