Favorite Water Therapy for Pain Management

Daily pain is a fact of life for millions of Americans, and the healthy way to manage pain is through water therapy, or pool exercises.

As anyone who has ever slipped into a warm tub at the end of a long day knows, water can be incredibly soothing. For people with osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia or lower back pain, water is more than comforting; it provides relief to an aching body and a pain-free way to exercise.

Pool therapy (also known as aqua therapy) is especially beneficial for people with these conditions because the buoyancy of the water helps support a large percentage of their body weight. If even a short walk around the neighborhood is difficult for you, you may be able to improve your strength and endurance through these pool exercises.

Water Therapy and Osteoarthritis

Pool exercises offer people with osteoarthritis an opportunity to stretch their muscles using the gentle resistance of the water.

Once you’re in the water, stretch your lower back as well as your hamstrings by raising your knees up toward your chest. Then, stretch your neck and upper back by standing near one end of the pool, leaning forward, and using your hands to “catch” yourself.

Another good aqua therapy for osteoarthritis is any type of water aerobics. Try walking through the water, working up to a slow jog across the shallow end and any other similar movements that stretch the hips and back and make them more limber.

Using Aqua Exercises for Fibromyalgia

As Complete PT notes, many people who are living with the pain of fibromyalgia find the pool is the only place where they can get relief from their discomfort. A warm-up conducted in the deep end is a low-impact way to exercise and get the body ready for other aqua therapies.

Using a noodle or other similar equipment to keep the head above water, people with fibromyalgia can typically do a variety of warm-up motions and stretches. Once the body is ready, water-power exercises can help alleviate the pain of fibromyalgia; these include quick scissor kicks, deep back kicks, heel lifts and bent-knee twists.

You can do kicking exercises with either a paddle board or with your hands on the steps or side of the pool. If you enjoy lap swimming, use the stroke that is the least painful. In many cases, a backstroke or flutter kick are great choices—they can provide much-needed exercise while not putting a huge strain on shoulders, neck and upper back.

Hot Tub Therapy for Back Pain

People living with osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia usually find that hot water soaking relaxes them and reduces their pain, and the same is true for lower back pain. Hot tubs and spas are outstanding options for water therapy. The moist heat in the warm and bubbly water can help lessen both stiffness and pain, and it also works to boost blood flow to the affected areas.

For those who wish to relax in a hot tub or spa at home, we have a full line of portable spas to choose from, from the Intex PureSpa at only $500, to our full-featured Pacific Spa, for $5K. Home spas and hot tub therapy prescribed by your doctor to treat chronic pain can often be a valid insurance claim or tax deduction, check with your tax adviser for details.

Always talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, and take it easy at first, until you can build up to longer water therapy sessions, with more active water exercises.


Dana Katz
InTheSwim Staff Blogger