Spa Treatment for Your Aching Joints
The idea of soaking in hot tubs is nothing new. The ancient Greeks and Romans recognized the healing powers of warm water. Today, many people, especially those with arthritis, appreciate a spa's ability to help them relax and feel better.
"The heat from the warm water makes joint movement in the person with arthritis much easier," says Washington, DC, rheumatologist Dr. Jack Klippel, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation. "We consider it an important component of therapy."
Sitting in a heated spa (hot tub) may improve circulation. As your body temperature rises, blood vessels dilate, which enhances blood flow and relaxes body tissues. Spa jets massage sore areas, releasing tight muscles, and relieving pain.
"More blood flowing to the joint makes it easier for you to move the joint. The massage causes the muscles to relax," Klippel says. "And having relaxed muscles allows for freer movement."
Check with your doctor before using a spa, especially if you are pregnant or have a condition that might prevent you from safely using the spa. Soak safely by doing the following:
- Maintaining the water temperature between 98°F and 104°F
- Gradually building up the amount of time spent in the water
- Staying in the tub for 15 minutes or less
- Avoiding alcoholic beverages or taking pain medicine or muscle relaxers before or during spa use
- Getting out if you start to feel lightheaded or nauseous
- The National Spa and Pool Institute recommends not soaking after a heavy meal
Most hot tubs provide enough space to stretch small muscle groups supporting hands, wrists, knees, ankles, and toes. Some swim spas are even deep enough to do aerobic routines and work large muscle groups. You can even get spas that come equipped with an underwater treadmill. If exercising in a swim spa, be sure to lower the temperature to between 83°F and 88°F.
Your Own Spa
If you are thinking about buying a spa for your home, test the spa before you purchase it. Sit in it, dry and wet, and ask yourself:
- Can you move around easily?
- Are the jets properly located to give you a good massage? Can you adjust them? Make sure the water pressure is not too powerful.
- Does the spa provide enough room to exercise?
- Is it easy to enter and exit? Can you add handrails, grab bars, or slip-resistant surfaces?
- Can you buy a cover lift to remove the lid? Covers keep the water warm and clean, but are quite heavy.
- Can you work the controls from inside the spa?
- Can you easily access the filter?
Also evaluate features, warranties, dealer reputation, wiring, weight placement, and plumbing requirements.
Soak It All In
Whether you decide to use a spa at a health club or invest in one, let the warm waters rejuvenate you.
American College of Rheumatology
Canadian Association of Family Physicians
Balogh Z, Ordogh J, Gasz A, et al. Effectiveness of balneotherapy in chronic low back pain: a randomized single-blind controlled follow-up study. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2005;12:196-201.
Questions and answers about arthritis and exercise. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/niams/healthinfo/arthexfs.htm.
Water exercise. Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/water-exercise.php. Accessed December 9, 2010.
Last reviewed December 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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