A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Try water exercises for joint pain

Illustration - Woman doing water exercises in pool

If you have joint pain, water exercises can provide the weight-bearing impact you need to reduce or prevent bone loss.

If you can’t do land-based exercises very well or without pain, water exercises are a nice way for you to be more fit and even lose weight.

Terri Graham, a physical therapist for Marshfield Clinic, said people who have joint pain and may be a little overweight seem to do best exercising in the water.

Great for your back, hip or knee

“Water ‘unweights’ those joints that are typically more painful,” she said. “This is especially true for people with back, hip or knee pain.”

Where to stand in a pool or body of water is a key issue. Floating in the deepest part of the pool will not get the weight-bearing impact needed to reduce or prevent bone loss.

Waist-deep water is best

Simply move to waist-deep water with your feet touching the pool bottom. This increases weight bearing in the joints by 50 percent and is essential to promote nutrition and bone growth.

Water exercise is, therefore, a great choice for people who have a hard time doing land-based exercise, Graham said, since they can gradually decrease the depth of the water they’re in to promote bearing more weight.

Follow this guide to begin weight-bearing exercises at home.

Calming effect

Water exercises can also help with other conditions and have a calming effect, especially for people with anxiety, she noted. It also gives constant feedback on how much they’re moving.

Talk to your doctor first

One thing to watch out for with any exercise program is the impact it might have on the heart and cardiovascular system.

“Exercise, especially in the pool, increases blood flow to the heart so anyone with an underlying heart condition or history of heart failure should definitely be careful,” Graham said.

Because of concern about impacting the heart, ask your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Physical therapy services are available at several Marshfield Clinic locations. Aquatic therapy is available in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Wittenberg, Woodruff and Rice Lake.

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