Adventures in Pool PT
Every so often I have found it beneficial to have a physical therapy (PT) refresher to check in on how I am doing and learn (or re-remember) helpful exercises to maintain my strength and abilities. This time around I have added a twist by venturing into the realm of aquatic PT in a warm pool (often called a therapy pool).
Water exercises have always been beneficial to me
For most of my life I have appreciated water exercise and have found it helpful for managing my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms while keeping up my strength. Over the years I have learned a variety of exercises to do in the pool and discussed ideas with physical therapists. When I was a teenager recovering from joint replacements, my parents arranged a PT to meet me at a local hotel pool. This was hugely helpful in regaining my strength and ability to walk.
Finding access to a pool can be difficult
Unfortunately, access to a pool is not always easy. Growing up, there was one in town at the hotel. The last few years it has been wonderful to have a beautiful pool to use in my community, but since it is outdoors, I have had to do other exercise or travel further to visit an indoor pool. One additional complication is that I am very cold sensitive, so I’ve had the experience of traveling all the way to the pool and discovering it was too cold for me to use that day.
Hospitals and rehab facilities may have therapy pools
Then, a neighbor who happens to also have RA mentioned that she uses a warm therapy pool at a hospital and rehabilitation facility nearby. It sounded wonderful! But I did drag my feet… I worried instead, of course! I learned that I would need to do some PT before I could access the pool on my own. What if the PT was too hard? What if I couldn’t arrange the schedule with my work? What if, what if, what if?
Finally, I poked myself in the bum and said “Get going! You’ve got nothing to lose but time!” When I asked my doctor, he wrote a prescription immediately and was enthusiastic about me giving it a try. My goals were simple. First, see if I liked the pool and found the warmer water helpful for my joints. Second, learn some new exercises.
Beginning aquatic physical therapy for RA treatment
Thankfully, I was able to arrange PT sessions with my work schedule and so I started going twice a week. The first appointment did not involve getting in the water, but was an in-depth discussion with a PT about my health history, physical limitations, and goals. It was useful to have an assessment and frank discussion so that we could use the therapy sessions for maximum utility.
The number of sessions can vary, but the first several are to experiment with exercises. Then the next few sessions are to build on and for me to practice learning exercises to create routines. At this writing, I have had eight sessions so am likely nearing the end of therapy. I may get some more sessions just because I have a severe and complex case of RA, making PT especially useful.
The benefits of pool PT on my joints
In any case, I have learned that the warmer water really helps me to feel better. The combination of the exercises and the warmth has very much helped me cope with winter. Before therapy, I was regularly having RA flares, but now my joints are much calmer. Additionally, I not only learned new, useful exercises but also demonstrated old exercises to the PT and learned that they are good to do. (Always helps to have that confirmation!)
When my PT concludes, I’ll be working in visits to the warm pool in my free time to continue my aquatherapy. And when the weather warms up the pool in my community, I’ll be eager to dive in and keep extending my exercises there through the summer.
When was your last flare?