Posted by: Trevor Riches. 18th March 2015
As a man that has had too many broken bones, a number of surgeries and arthritis in my knee I feel I’m fully qualified to write about the benefits of hydrotherapy!
Hydrotherapy is a type of physiotherapy that takes place in the water.
As well as exercising the whole body it can be used for the treatment of limbs and joints both before and after surgery, or following an injury. That’s one of the reasons I bought the Endless Pool™ here at Ard na Ciuin.
Unlike public swimming pools, the water is usually kept around 34°C.
Other conditions such as depression, sleep disorders and stress can all be helped with hydrotherapy.
The healing properties of hydrotherapy work in 2 different ways.
- The physical affect the water has on the way you move when you get in.
- The way your body’s internal system reacts to being in warm water.
So how does hydrotherapy help arthritis sufferers?
The right sort of exercise that doesn’t put pressure on your joints will help if you suffer from arthritis.
Water is much denser than air. As a result, when we are immersed in water there is a feeling of weightlessness.
This feeling of buoyancy allows people who suffer with arthritis to move more easily. Whilst in the water, joint pain such as arthritis in the knee is reduced, allowing exercises that strengthen the leg muscles to take place.
Stronger leg muscles help to reduce pain in the knee by holding the affected bones apart. This in turn means that day to day movement is less painful, allowing you to do more things and both the muscles and joint strengthen further.
How does hydrotherapy help with surgery or injuries?
Immobilizing a limb or joint in plaster helps a broken bone to heal correctly, but that lack of movement means that joints stiffen during the healing process and muscles too can weaken, whilst being held in the same position for a few weeks.
Because the water supports your weight you’ll find it much easier to move your stiff joints. This allows you to lift your leg higher or your arm further out. And the more you can move your joints the stronger you’ll get.
As well as supporting your body with buoyancy, the water in a hydrotherapy pool also provides resistance.
Instead of using heavy weights to build muscles, like a bodybuilder does, a hydrotherapist may get you to use floating dumbbells to exercise with. Used in the water they cause your muscles to work harder and so rebuild your muscles faster.
Hydrotherapy can also help if you have a scheduled surgery coming up. If you can strengthen your muscles around a joint, say a knee or hip replacement, you will recover faster afterwards.
How does hydrotherapy help the internal systems we mentioned?
The other things that the water does in a hydrotherapy pool are;
There is a hydro-static effect. This means that the warm water moving around on your skin has a massage-like feeling. This stimulates your touch receptors, increases blood flow and in turn releases tight muscles.
In addition, the feeling of warm water on your skin when you are immersed in a hydrotherapy pool causes the nervous system to react in positive way.
Your immune system is stimulated, circulation of blood and digestion are improved, your body’s sensitivity to pain is reduced and the production of stress hormones is lessened.
So if you are considering hydrotherapy for any of the above conditions, from my own personal experience, I can strongly recommend giving it a try.
You don’t need to be able to swim to have hydrotherapy as you won’t be out of your depth, but it will be easier if you’re not scared of being in the water and you can totally relax and enjoy it.
A few last things to remember.
Only use a fully qualified and registered hydro-therapist for your treatment. You could do a lot of damage if you try it by yourself or just have a friend to help you.
Check with your GP before signing up for hydrotherapy to make sure it’s right for you.
The good news is that private medical insurance companies will pay for a portion of your hydrotherapy treatment as long as your therapist is registered.