Arthritis is a group of inflammatory conditions that affects the joints and tissues. Many people with arthritis struggle to manage their pain and keep their inflammation at bay. Though it can be challenging, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including good dietary and exercise habits, is critical for managing any type of arthritis.
Natural therapies for arthritis that target inflammation and alleviate pain can also help improve your prognosis. Hydrotherapy is a safe and holistic at-home remedy for managing arthritis symptoms and reducing pain. Bathing in a warm jet bathtub that delivers a gentle massage may boost circulation throughout stiff joints and muscles, and provide the buoyant support your joints need to find relief from painful pressure.
Hydrotherapy, also called balneotherapy or warm water therapy, involves using warm bath water to alleviate pain and inflammation and provide other health benefits for the mind, body and soul.
As one of the oldest forms of treatment, hydrotherapy was described by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, as thermal medicine, which he believed had the potential to restore the human body to its natural balance. Bathing was so fundamental to Greco-Roman culture that public therapeutic baths were integrated into daily life.
Today, hydrotherapy may involve professional treatment at therapeutic spas or at-home bathing in a freestanding tub. With hydromassage tubs, the warm bath water combined with the gentle massaging motion of jets delivers a relaxing experience that may ease tension in sore joints and improve range of motion.
Throughout the years, many studies have revealed how hydrotherapy may help manage inflammatory conditions, including arthritis. Water therapy for arthritis is particularly effective for rheumatoid and osteoarthritis arthritis, as well as other types of inflammatory joint disorders.
Whether using a freestanding heated soaker tub or a jetted tub, therapeutic baths at home can be a rejuvenating experience that may help improve the quality of life of those living with arthritis.
Arthritis refers to a group of inflammatory musculoskeletal conditions that share similar symptoms and causes — specifically, joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. According to the CDC, there are over 100 different conditions that fall under the arthritis umbrella, each affecting the joints, joint tissues, and/or connective tissues.
Over 54 million Americans report arthritis-related symptoms to their doctor annually. The CDC predicts that by 2040, more than 78 million U.S. adults will be diagnosed with arthritis due to our aging population.
The most common types of arthritis affect people over the age of 65, and symptoms do tend to worsen with age. However, other rarer types of arthritis can affect young children, teens and people as young 20. The Arthritis Foundation says that over 300,000 U.S. children have arthritis. Arthritis also tends to affect more women than men, although some types of arthritis, like gout, seem to be more common in men.
Some types of arthritis have genetic risk factors, with some people being born with genes that predispose them to a risk of developing certain arthritic diseases, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Though arthritis can be a painful and debilitating condition, it’s also manageable with the right combination of treatments and healthy lifestyle habits, particularly a proper diet and regular exercise.
Though arthritis has several different causes, there are some general symptoms that most people feel. The most common symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which can affect any joint, including the hands, wrists, hips, knees, ankles and feet.
Symptoms of arthritis may develop suddenly or appear gradually over time. Your arthritis symptoms may also come and go or increase over time. Many people report that their arthritis symptoms are particularly bad in the morning, but ease throughout the day. Arthritis can be degenerative, meaning it gets worse with age.
In general, the most common warning signs of arthritis include:
- Persistent joint pain and stiffness
- Widespread muscle aches
- Swelling and general inflammation
- Redness or hot to the touch
- Limited range of motion
The following symptoms may also accompany other, more severe types of arthritis:
- Red, patchy skin rash
- Eye pain, itchiness or blurred vision
- Weakened immune system
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
Living with arthritis can be challenging, and many basic activities you used to take for granted now become difficult. Simple daily tasks like getting dressed or preparing and cooking meals can take much longer if your range of motion is limited. Additionally, joint pain and stiffness often prevent people from getting regular exercise, which is an essential component of managing arthritis symptoms.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis, each with unique causes and symptoms. Different types of arthritis affect different populations of people. For example, there are more women diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects children under the age of 16. If you’re experiencing arthritis symptoms, it’s important to understand a bit about the common types of arthritis, so you can get the best treatment possible.
The following are some of the most common arthritic conditions:
The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis is caused by degenerative wear and tear on the joints, affecting the cartilage and bone around the joint. Osteoarthritis usually develops due to injury or repetitive use of the particular joint(s). The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age. Obesity or being overweight also increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis, as extra pounds put added stress on joints in the spine, hips and knees.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that‘s caused when the body mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in the joints, triggering inflammation. Doctors believe it’s a genetic condition. During a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up (a period of high inflammation), the joints become very painful and even warm to the touch. Rheumatoid arthritis causes symmetrical symptoms, meaning you’ll develop pain in both hands, hips or knees.
Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes pain and inflammation in the joints as well as scaly patches of inflamed skin. Psoriasis is a sperate condition altogether. However, roughly 30% of people with the autoimmune disease will go on to develop psoriatic arthritis. This type of arthritis can affect any joint in the body, and research has found that it can cause long-term damage to the joints.
Gout, Fibromylagia and Lupus
Because of their inflammatory nature, gout, fibromyalgia and lupus are also medically considered arthritic conditions. Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that usually affects the big toe joint and is characterized by periods of flare-ups.
Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain throughout the body and is often accompanied by chronic fatigue and sleep problems.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease and form of arthritis that causes joint pain while often producing skin rashes. It can also manifest throughout the body and affect the eyes, kidneys and lungs.
How Can Hydrotherapy Help Arthritis Symptoms?
Hydrotherapy is uniquely suited to help manage arthritis symptoms. Many studies have found that warm water therapy for arthritis is an effective way to ease pressure on sore joints, reduce pain and inflammation, increase range of motion and boost healthy circulation to swollen joints.
Here is what the research says about the benefits of hydrotherapy for arthritis symptoms:
- Reduces Pressure on Joints
For people with joint pain and stiffness, high-impact activities or even the simple tasks of daily life can worsen symptoms. In healthy joints, cartilage protects the bones within the joint from rubbing together. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage to wear out, and it can no longer provide a cushioning effect. During repetitive movements, osteoarthritic bones rub together, causing pain and inflammation. Additionally, natural gravitational forces pull downward on our joints, increasing the pressure and resulting in pain — especially in the back or knees already experiencing wear and tear.
Hydrotherapy may be a helpful way to counteract the pressure on aching joints. Water provides a buoyant environment for the human body. While floating, your body is in a neutral posture, which relieves spine and joint pressure points. Immersing yourself in water can significantly reduce the pull of gravitational forces and alleviate joint pressure.
One study found that fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis patients who floated in the Dead Sea had substantially reduced the number of tender points in their joints as well as the number of active joints. The researchers concluded that balneotherapy helped alleviate the tenderness that patients experience in affected joints and helped deactivate joints so they could relax.
While the Dead Sea has a high salinity rate that gives it its extreme buoyant properties, you may achieve similar results at home with a freestanding air tub, jetted tub or whirlpool tub. Soaking in a heated hydrotherapy bath gives you the buoyant effect your joints need to relax and reduce painful pressure points.
- Improves Range of Motion
Arthritis can cause a decline in mobility, as the pain and stiffness prevent people from achieving their full range of motion. This is one of the most debilitating aspects of arthritis — the difficulty in accomplishing simple physical tasks. For many people, exercise is too painful to endure, even though it’s a recommended pain-management practice for arthritis.
To help alleviate stiffness, physical therapists often recommend heat therapy to improve range of motion. Heat is a natural muscle-relaxant, providing warm comfort that allows you to release tension gradually. By soaking in a heated hydrotherapy bath for 15 to 20 minutes, your stiff joints will start to loosen up thanks to the soothing warmth of the therapeutic bathtub.
In particular, arthritis patients may benefit from morning hydrotherapy sessions, as stiffness tends to be worse upon awakening. One study found that patients with Ankylosing spondylitis (a form of arthritis that affects the spine) who underwent balneotherapy for 20 minutes daily, five days per week for three weeks had a greater improvement in their morning stiffness symptoms compared to patients who took pain-relieving medications. The patients who underwent balneotherapy also reported greater levels of well-being.
Soaking in a heated hydrotherapy bath when you wake up could be a therapeutic way to start your day. Therapists recommend that your hot bath should not exceed 100 degrees, as water that’s too hot causes distress to your muscles and joints. Warm water therapy may help you to loosen stiff muscles so you’ll experience a fuller range of motion and improved quality of life.
- Relieves Pain and Inflammation
Pain and inflammation are the main characteristics of all arthritis types. To relieve these symptoms, many patients regularly rely on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. However, NSAIDs are not recommended for long-term use, and taking these pain-relievers chronically can increase the risk of developing side effects.
Arthritis patients must find effective pain-management practices that are safe for regular use. For some people, hydrotherapy may be a natural therapy that helps improve quality of life by reducing pain and inflammation.
One study examined the effects of hydrotherapy on patients with osteoarthritis in the knee joint. The treatment group underwent a weekly hydrotherapy session for six weeks. The researchers assessed the patients’ pain scores and NSAID consumption. By the fourth and sixth week of treatment, the patients experienced significantly lower pain levels, which were sustained four weeks after they’d finished their treatment sessions. The researchers even found that the patients had taken fewer pain-killers during and after the treatment program.
Another study found that hydrotherapy reduced pain in women 65 years and older with hip or knee osteoarthritis. Other studies have found that hydrotherapy with the use of mineral water can help reduce inflammation levels in the body.
If you’ve been relying on pain-killers or analgesic medications, then consider the benefits of hydrotherapy for arthritis pain. With a freestanding heated bath or hydromassage bath, you may be able to relieve your chronic pain and inflammation at home safely. Relaxing hydrotherapy baths also ease stress and contribute to better emotional well-being so you’ll be better equipped to manage your arthritis pain.
- Boosts Circulation
A steady flow of blood throughout your joints and muscles is crucial to maintaining the long-term health and strength of your musculoskeletal system. In joints affected by arthritis, blood flow tends to be reduced because the surrounding tissues become inflamed. Reduced blood flood is particularly restricted in joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
It’s important for arthritis patients to improve blood flow to help keep inflammation at bay. Exercise is a great way to naturally boost circulation, but so are heat and massage therapy.
When you apply heat to affected areas, it causes the blood vessels to dilate. As blood vessels expand, it increases the circulation of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged joints, especially the joint lining called the synovium. According to the Arthritis Society, massage therapy can also boost circulation to arthritic joints. Gentle massaging motions stimulate blood flow to inflamed joints, releasing stiffness and easing pain.
Heated oxygen baths or freestanding heated soaker tubs can deliver thermal heat that may boost blood flow to sore and inflamed joints. By combining therapeutic bathing with the gentle massaging motions of whirlpool, jetted or air tubs, you’ll further improve blood flow to help restore joint health.
Where Can I Access Hydrotherapy?
While hydrotherapy is available through clinical physiotherapy, it’s also possible to experience it at home. If you’re interested in the benefits of hydrotherapy for arthritis pain, there’s no need to travel to spas or clinics. You can access one of the best natural therapies for arthritis from the comfort of your own home.
For those wanting to relieve their arthritis pain and release joint tension, there are several options available for hydrotherapy baths at home. Freestanding heated soaker tubs deliver thermal heat to help relax and soothe sore joints. Jetted tubs, whirlpool tubs and air tubs use gentle massaging sensations to help stimulate blood flow and nourish worn joints.
Hydromassage tubs and heated oxygen baths deliver the relaxing and therapeutic experience you need to manage your arthritis naturally. Relieve pain and improve your quality of life with a heated hydrotherapy bathtub for arthritis.