Hydrotherapy can be a great form of exercise and rehabilitation. The buoyancy of the water allows you to perform a range of exercises which may not be able to performed in a weight bearing fashion due to pain or stiffness. This can be especially useful during the early stages of post-operative rehabilitation or for the management of chronic arthritic or degenerative conditions. Malvern East Physiotherapy provides aquatic physiotherapy and hydrotherapy options on a Tuesday and Friday at Harold Holt Swim Centre.
Whilst hydrotherapy can be a great form of exercise, it is not recommended to be your only form of exercise given it’s limitations.
What is functional exercise?
Unless you are a professional athlete, the majority of us do not live to exercise. Functional exercises are a fancy way to describe exercises designed to make it easier to perform every day activities. This could include exercises to improve your ability to get out of a chair, through to exercises designed to improve your ability to carry your groceries.
Is hydrotherapy functional?
Unfortunately, the limiting factor with hydrotherapy is that the buoyancy of the water reduces the amount of weight put through the joint. Whilst this can be incredibly beneficial for maintaining joint mobility, the strength benefits of hydrotherapy are limited. For example, hydrotherapy can regularly limit the amount of body weight being placed through the joint by up to half. However, during the day, your body weight and more is regularly placed through your joints. Studies have shown that slowly walking down steps or down hill increases the amount of load through the hip and knee by 2 – 3 x your body weight!
Equally important is that weight bearing is crucial for the maintenance of bone density and the prevention of osteoporosis. This is why functional exercise programs commonly include weight bearing exercises. Not only is weight bearing crucial for every day tasks, but it is also integral to improving and maintaining bone density.
What exercise should I do?
Your physiotherapist is an expert is providing an appropriate level of exercise for your individual needs. Exercises for the management of arthritis focus specifically on maintaining mobility of the affected joint and strength of the surrounding muscles.
For example, arthritic conditions of the lower limb can be greatly assisted by increasing endurance and strength of the leg muscles such as the gluteals, thigh and calf. These muscle groups will support the affected joint and help offload excessive stress and strain being placed through the joint.
Importantly, your physiotherapist will provide exercises that specifically work these muscle groups in a safe fashion without compromising the joint integrity. These exercises are going to be different for each individual. Depending on your signs and symptoms, what has worked well for a friend of family member may not always be the best exercise specifically for you.
This doesn’t mean that hydrotherapy isn’t appropriate. Hydrotherapy can be incredibly useful if you are unable to weight bear or have very limited strength. However, land-based exercises can regularly be adapted or progressed to safely reduce stress and strain through arthritic joints. Like the cliche saying, “everything in moderation”. Your physiotherapist will more than likely recommend a combination of exercises which may include non-weight bearing and weight bearing exercises.
Your physiotherapist is well placed to direct you in the most effective and efficient type of exercise. Whether these exercises are performed individually at home or in a group environment, the main thing is that the exercises provided for you are safe and individualised. Malvern East Physiotherapy prides itself in providing individualised, safe, and practical exercises for you.
To make sure you are doing the best form of exercise for your arthritis, call us today or book online.