Is Swimming Good for Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is the most common form of OA. When you have some limitations in using your knee joints, it can significantly affect the level of your physical activity (you tend to become a sedentary individual). On the other hand, it’s important to keep active even though you have arthritis. Swimming is one of best choices.  It is a low-impact exercise that also considered good for other types of arthritis.

What happen if you have lack of physical activity?

If your knee joint hurts, you may think that exercise is not your option – at least until you find that the symptoms improve. But without exercise, the problem can get worse.

If you don’t exercise, the affected joint may become even more painful and stiff. Because exercise is so essential to keep your joints healthy, especially for the muscles around the joint!

Having the strong muscles are so useful if you have arthritis. These muscles can give additional support in helping to absorb the strain so thus the cartilage in the joint can work easier. They are also important to help keep the joint at the right position in every motion.

In other words, the stronger muscles you have – the more benefits you get to support and protect your joints. The weaker muscles mean your cartilage will work harder, worsening the problem or increasing your risk of new OA in another joint. Lack of exercise also can make your bones easier to brittle in long term.

Unfortunately, many people with OA of knee tend to stay at comfortable zone by keeping the affected joint in a bent position. But if you do it for too long, inactivity of the joint can be stuck in that position and this is not the real answer in coping with the problem.

Without exercise, there is greater chance for you to get caught in a cycle of inactivity, pain, and depression.

Exercise can help keep your joints flexible and healthy. It also can boost your spirit and keep motivated in dealing with the disease.

The symptoms of arthritis can be painful and very bothersome. This may put you at greater chance of depression. If you are depressed, you can become a sedentary individual. So if you don’t exercise, you will get more pain and depression.

Another crucial issue you need to completely understand, your weight can have a role in helping to control the disease. More excessive pounds of weight you gain mean the greater strain you put on your knee joints.

In fact, obesity or even overweight is a risk factor of OA. Many people with OA have obesity. That’s why weight control is also a crucial part in the treatment plan. And along with a healthy-balanced diet, exercise can be so helpful to keep your body weight off.

So now you know exercise is essential part of the treatment plan, what’s next?

However, there are some adjustments you need to know before exercise. First, make sure that your body especially the affected joint is ready. It’s recommended to talk with your doctor before starting your exercise program!

Furthermore, not all kinds of exercises are recommended. Some should be avoided! See this section for certain exercises that may become counterproductive in people with arthritis!

There are 3 major types of exercise that can be included in the treatment plan. Each type is purposed to provide different benefits. These include:

  1. Fitness program, swimming belongs to this category. This program is intended to help improve your endurance and improve your fit status in general.
  2. Range-of- motion program. This is purposed to help improve the flexibility of the joint and ease the stiffness.
  3. And strengthening exercises. They are good to keep and improve the strength of the muscles around the joint.

How does swimming help osteoarthritis of the knee?

Low impact exercises (such as swimming or other exercises in the water) are recommended for arthritis. They can help burn your calories, improve the health of muscles around the joints, good for your heart, and great for your entire health without putting more strain on the affected joint.

image_illustration211The water can absorb the strain of your movement. It can support your body while you make any movement. Even it can support the affected joint through its full range of motion. So again, with the water holding, there will be les strain that impacts your spines and knees.

Swimming is particularly great for joints with stiffness. It can help improve stiffness with less pain, relax the muscles, and improve the joint pain.

For best result, the use of warm water (about 83-90 degrees) for swimming is more recommended. Warm water can help relax the muscles more effectively. In addition, there are also many private pools as well as public pools provide water-aerobic programs for people with arthritis.

Don’t push yourself too hard!

While exercise can provide considerable disease-specific benefits if you have osteoarthritis in the knee, but it will be counterproductive if you push your muscles or joints too much.

The effect of too much exercise can be double when you are first starting your workout program.

Exercise can help control this joint disease and ease /improve the symptoms, as noted before. But it is only one part in your treatment plan. So, do your exercise in moderation and make sure to do it regularly!

In the first weeks of your exercise, you may feel increased rate of heart beat and breathe faster. When you exercise, you may also notice that your muscles feel tense.

At night you may feel tired but awake feeling fit and refreshed in the morning. All these things are considered normal.

However, keep monitoring any symptoms that you feel! Stop the exercise if you experience some of the following symptoms:

  1. Feeling faint, dizzy, or sick to the stomach.
  2. Shortness of breath.
  3. Chest tightness or even chest pain.
  4. Muscle or joint pain and fatigue that lasts longer than usual or even these may continue in the next day.

*Some of these symptoms may also become a signal of when you have done too much or your body is not ready yet for exercise. See a doctor promptly if the symptoms continue or last longer than what you think!

Reference:

  1. http://www.orthop.washington.edu/?q=patient-care/articles/arthritis/exercise-and-arthritis.html