The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects approximately 3.3% of the world’s population, with these numbers skewed toward the elderly – approximately 10% of men and 18% of women aged 60+ suffer from the condition. While there’s no cure for osteoarthritis, there are effective management techniques. While spa pools are best known as places to unwind and have fun, could they also be an effective treatment option for those who suffer from osteoarthritis?
A regular soak in a spa pool is indeed an effective way to manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis. It works as a heat treatment, opening blood vessels and promoting the flow of fresh, nutrient-rich blood to the joints. It offers a gentle massage, which can relax joints and assist in pain relief. Finally, the buoyancy of the water can offer great relief to joints forever forced to fight gravity.
In short, a hot tub or spa pool offers a three-pronged and entirely pleasurable treatment option for osteoarthritis, which might sound too good to be true, so let’s take a closer look at the whats, whys and hows.
What is osteoarthritis?
In a healthy joint, protective cartilage cushions the ends of bones and helps to ensure smooth and pain-free movement. Osteoarthritis is the result of this cartilage wearing down over time, which is exacerbated by the joint needing to work extra hard to repair itself. Inflammation in joint tissue, deterioration of ligaments and the growth of bony spurs around the joint can intensify the symptoms further.
Does a hot tub make arthritis worse?
The last thing someone with osteoarthritis wants to do is aggravate their condition. We’re often asked whether soaking in a hot tub or spa pool can make osteoarthritis worse, so before looking at why a regular soak is good for you, let’s first ensure that a regular soak won’t be bad for you.
Soaking in a hot tub or spa pool will not make osteoarthritis worse. There’s nothing about the conditions of a spa pool that would aggravate or intensify the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and you can rest assured you won’t make your situation worse by enjoying a relaxing soak. In fact, you’ll likely be doing the exact opposite.
Is heat good for osteoarthritis?
When athletes suffer soft tissue injuries, they use hot and cold temperature treatments to limit the damage and symptoms, and hasten the healing process. While osteoarthritis sufferers may not seem to have much in common with a hamstrung professional footballer, both bodies will have the same physiological response.
Heat treatments have been proven effective in treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis. There are many ways and means to apply heat to an affected area, including a heating pad, hot pack or paraffin wax. Applying heat for 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times a day is recommended for osteoarthritis sufferers, ideally followed by gentle massage.
Alternatively, you could choose to soak in a warm, jet-lined hot tub.
How does a hot tub help with knee pain?
Is a hot tub good for knee pain? The simple answer is yes, in the same way that a hot tub can form a helpful treatment for other forms of chronic soreness, such as nerve pain and back pain. And the reasons are physiological.
When you lower yourself into warm water, your blood vessels instantly expand. This allows more blood, and therefore more healing oxygen and nutrients, to get to soft tissues. All the while, the warmth of the water has a relaxing, almost sedative effect on soft tissues – what this paper calls a ‘direct analgesic effect’.
While a spa pool certainly isn’t a cure for a chronic condition like osteoarthritis, these effects mean that it can make a patient’s life far more comfortable. There are many anecdotal reports from spa pool owners who say that in their hot tub, knee pain is greatly reduced.
Do hot baths help knee pain? Why not book a test soak and see for yourself?
How do you exercise your knees in a hot tub?
Movement is key to managing osteoarthritis, and by offering warmth and buoyancy, there’s no more comfortable place for a patient to get moving than in the luxurious waters of a spa pool.
The exercises you’ll be able to undertake will depend on the size of your spa. Your knee is a simple hinge joint, and the act of swinging your calf backwards and forwards can be undertaken in the centre of most spas, no matter how small.
There are forms of aquacise that are slightly more fun and rewarding however, such as swimming and aquarobics. And while these activities have traditionally been undertaken in a full size swimming or hydrotherapy pool, there is another, more backyard-friendly option: an Endless Pools swim spa.
Should I exercise with osteoarthritis?
The pain that comes with osteoarthritis can make exercise a harrowing and almost impossible thought. But does moving the affected joints actually help the condition? It’s a question that science is ready to answer.
While it might seem somewhat counterintuitive to move joints that have been damaged by wear and tear, studies have shown that moderate exercise, undertaken a minimum of three times per week, can be effective in reducing pain and improving function in osteoarthritic joints.
Which exercise is best for osteoarthritis?
If exercise is seen as an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, the next question is obvious: which exercise is best? Ideally, it will be one that limits the possibility of pain and further damage to the affected joints, while improving an individual’s comfort levels and quality of life in the long term.
The aquacise and hydrotherapy offered by spa pools and swim spas represents the least impactful exercise option available to people with osteoarthritis. The warmth and buoyancy of the water allows for freer and less painful movement of joints, allowing a patient to regain function sooner.
In this study’s words, “there is moderate quality evidence that aquatic exercise may have small, short‐term, and clinically relevant effects on patient‐reported pain, disability, and quality of life in people with knee and hip osteoarthritis.”
Is a sauna good for osteoarthritis?
In many parts of the world, particularly northern Europe, hot tubs and saunas go hand-in-hand, which poses a question: if a hot tub represents a good treatment option for osteoarthritis, could regular visits to the sauna be useful too?
While they can certainly deliver heat treatments, when compared to spa pools, saunas represent an inferior osteoarthritis treatment option, and for a number of reasons: they don’t relieve joints through buoyancy, you’re unable to exercise in them, and they lack the gentle massage provided by the hydromassage jets found in spa pools.
If you suffer from osteoarthritis, a Hot Spring spa pool can represent real relief. Not only that, you’ll also grant yourself access to the wealth of other lifestyle benefits that a spa pool brings, whether in terms of relaxation, fun, or an increase in the value of your property.