The prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis (OA) has increased in recent years as the average age of our population advances. Increased patient cost reduces clinical time treating symptoms. Yet, increasing incidence of OA challenges therapists to use the most effective ways to treat the pain and functional deterioration, which often accompany OA.
There has-been much research into bodyweight supported treadmill walking as an treatment. A reasonable and similar alternative is aquatic therapy. The buoyant nature of water is similar to bodyweight supported treadmill therapy in that it reduces the amount of force transmitted through the joints of the lower body. When a person is standing in water, which is neck deep, 90% of their body weight is eliminated and at waist deep, 50% is eliminated.
Aquatic therapy encompasses any therapeutic activities, which occur in a pool. Often times these activities will include walking, balance exercises, stepping, etc. Using exercises such as these it is possible to target the hip and knee muscles which are often weak and in need of strengthening.
It is also possible to break functional activities into smaller parts and practice these with proper form in a non-painful environment thereby increasing the patient’s ability to perform the selected activity on dry land. By targeting these exercises to a patient’s specific needs and deficits in an environment of decreased weight bearing, we can make an impact on a patient’s functional ability.