The Dog Days of Summer can actually bring RELIEF!

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MAKE A SPLASH FIND RELIEF

As we find the hot, hot days of summer can be draining and unforgiving,  just know that the cool pool not only can bring relief from the heat ~ it can bring you relief from pain.

If you’re suffering from Low Back Pain, hip or knee pain from osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal strains or just plain weakness &/ or lack of endurance….the pool could be for you!

Water offers relief from joint compression and pain through its buoyancy effect on the body.  The deeper you can get in the water, the better for your joints.  At waist depth, the water’s buoyancy supports 50% of your body weight which means those joints under the water’s surface are only 50% compressed compared to when standing on land. At chest/sternal level (up to your armpits), the body is 75% supported and at neck depth, this increases to 90%. With this decompression, you may find a greater ease in movements which are typically difficult or even impossible on land. With decreased stress on your joints, it’s easier to strengthen your muscles by using the water’s resistance whether it’s by walking or gentle joint movements.

If you’re fortunate enough to use a heated pool, the warm water soothes sore muscles and prompts even greater relaxation.

Now, let’s get moving. Don’t worry! You don’t need to know how to swim to reap these benefits.  You do, however, need to be mindful of water safety.  Once you find a water buddy or ensure there is a lifeguard on duty, just get in the water and start walking or if you’re feeling spunky, get moving. There are many devices that you can use for extra support or balance ~ floatation rings, belts, dumbbells or those colorful pool noodles are great tools to use. The noodles and dumbbells, as well as water weights, can be used as resistance tools for strengthening as well.

  • Warm Up: First with some walking in the water.  Be mindful of keeping good posture ~ shoulders back and tighten those tummy muscles! Once you’ve warmed up then start with some basic Stretching.  A few stretches that most people find beneficial are:
  • Calf Stretches: Face the wall and place one foot slightly back.  Keep this foot’s heel down and the knee straight while you allow the forward knee to bend as you lean the whole body forward.
  • Knee to Chest Stretch: With your back resting on the wall, pull one knee up toward your chest with your hands until you feel a slight pull in your low back or buttock.
  • Trunk Rotations: With your feet shoulder width apart, palms together, arms floating at surface: keep hips and knees facing forward and ROTATE trunk/hands to one side, repeat to opposite side
  • Sidebends:  With your feet shoulder-width apart and hands down at your side – slide the RIGHT hand down the side of the RIGHT thigh until you feel a stretch in the LEFT or CENTRAL back: repeat to the other side

All stretches should be performed in a pain-free manner ~ gently and slowly.  Hold a stretch for 10-30 seconds.  5-10 repetitions to each side.

Strengthening can be achieved in all planes (directions of movement) because the water surrounds you.  Gentle movements– slow and smooth in a range that is comfortable can gradually be increased for greater resistance by increasing the velocity of the body part moving through the water.  People with back pain should always try to tighten those tummy muscles with all movements meeting resistance and try to maintain good posture throughout the strengthening exercises.

Relaxation is everyone’s best friend, right?  In a pool, floatation is the way.  Floatation unloads all the joints and allows the surrounding muscles of a painful joint to relax.  Floating on one’s back may seem very scary to those that can’t swim.  No worries!  A vertical ‘dangle’ from a floatation device is almost as relaxing.  Large noodles under the arms, around the back, chest or both, dumbbells under the arms or a floatation ring often give enough buoyancy to allow one to just hang or “vertically dangle” from the floatation device.  This relieves all joints under the water from all compression which can feel very comfortable and relaxing.  Take a few minutes and enjoy some weightlessness.

If you find that aquatic therapy may benefit you and you’d like a more specific program designed just for you, contact your local ProFlex Physical Therapy location to have one of our expert physical therapists evaluate you and go over a treatment plan including stretching, strengthening and a home exercise program that is tailored to your needs.

Author: Chris Grasso, PTA