Arthritis is a painful swelling and stiffness in the joints. The human body contains over 350 joints between bones, large and small. Arthritis pain is most common in hands, feet, knees and back, but can also flare up in other parts of the body.
Over 20% of the US population have some form of arthritis or other related rheumatic disease. Of these, over 60% are women, particularly women over 40 years of age.
I count myself among these sufferers – having mild arthritic pain in my knees, ankles and fingers. On most days, it’s hardly noticeable – but then there are those days – when I’m not taking care of myself – too much stress, and not enough exercise and eating right.
Exercises for Arthritis
The hot tub is the perfect place for soothing relief from arthritis pain. Warm water increases blood flow to reduce painful swelling, and improves range of motion as the muscles relax. The water’s buoyancy makes exercise easier and makes injury less likely.
Range of Motion Exercises
One of the side effects of Arthritis is limited mobility in the joints. This condition worsens without exercises to move the joints through their full range of motion. Wrist, ankle, knee, fingers – just about any joint in the body can improve flexibility and range of motion with some simple flexion and extension.
These exercises are best done slowly and rhythmically, in sets of 5 or 10 motions. With practice, you should be able to increase the range of motion, but be careful not to over-extend your joints. Take it slow and steady, for a short duration of 5-15 minutes.
There’s a lot of stretching involved in range of motion exercises, but greater benefit and relief to arthritis symptoms can be gained by actively stretching the muscles and ligaments that connect the joints. For instance, if your pain is primarily in the knee, devise some easy stretches for calf and thigh muscles.
Yoga moves can be incorporated into your stretching routine. Some of my favorite yoga poses to do in the spa are listed on Gina’s blog post about Hot Tub Yoga. If you are familiar with Tai Chi – a warm water spa is an ideal place to practice your moves!
Take it easy, and remember to breath deeply during range of motion and stretching exercises, just as during any other type of exercise. I like to imagine that I am drawing the air directly to the body area that I’m exercising.
For myself, I typically practice a few full yogic breaths before and after I stretch. I place my hands behind my head and first breath deeply into my belly for a 4-count, then open up the sides of my rib cage for 5-6, and then fill my upper chest as I count 7-8. Then a slow 8-count exhale in the opposite direction (chest-ribs-belly).
Other Thoughts on Hot Tub Exercises for Arthritis
- Warm – Not Hot! The Arthritis Foundation recommends warm water of 92-100 degrees.
- Consult your physician before beginning any program of physical exercise.
- Buddy-Up! Don’t use the spa alone, or have someone keep an eye on you.
- Limit your spa sessions to 30 minutes maximum.
- Fluids! Drink water or juice before, during and after hot tub exercise.
Hot Tub Works