If you’re living with arthritis, you may feel as if you’re missing out on life. The chronic and acute pain of arthritis can prevent you from working, make your favorite activities impossible to enjoy, and may even cause you pain when you’re sitting or lying down. The good news is that
exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness. The stumbling block is that when your joints are already giving you trouble, your ability to exercise may seem limited. Hot tub therapy for arthritis relief—where the water supports you and the heat helps relax the joints—can help build strength and improve your flexibility and get you moving again. With a Hot Spring® spa at home, it’s easy to customize a daily routine of soaking, stretching and gentle exercise.
Moist heat is known to safely and effectively relieve arthritis pain and stiffness, and that is exactly the sort of heat a hot tub provides. Immersing yourself in warm water will relieve some of the pain and make starting exercise easier. The water will help support you, and its resistance to your movements will help you build strength. The combination of pain relief and buoyancy can make hot tub exercises a pleasant way to start or end your day.
BE PREPARED FOR THE HEAT OF A HOT TUB BEFORE BEGINNING WATER EXERCISES
One major advantage of warm water exercise for arthritis relief is, of course, the heat which improves blood flow and can help with joint flexibility. However, you need to take basic precautions to avoid overheating or getting dehydrated. Before going into your hot tub, be sure you drink enough water. You shouldn’t be thirsty or have a dry throat before climbing into the hot tub. Even if you are not feeling particularly thirsty, make the time to slowly drink a few glasses of water first. Stay hydrated and prevent overheating by bringing a bottle of cold water with you and keeping it on the spa bar top to drink as you work out.
It’s very important to start gently and find a water temperature that you feel comfortable with. You may need to set your hot tub to a relatively low 100° F to start. You may also need to
warm yourself up slowly by entering the hot tub in stages and giving your body time to adjust by sitting on the bar top and warming your feet and legs and sliding into an elevated cooldown seat before fully immersing yourself. When you are immersed in the warm water, take time to fully stretch out before you begin your exercises.
ADD THESE SIMPLE HOT TUB STRETCHING EXERCISES TO YOUR ROUTINE
The type of hot tub exercises you do will depend on what type of arthritis you have and what joints it affects. However, all exercise routines, whether they’re in the water or not, should begin with thoroughly stretching your whole body.
It is important to note that when you are first starting out with stretches, you may not be able to fully extend or contract your arm, leg, or other body parts. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t experiencing a stretch, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should give up. You can consult with your doctor to better understand what is the appropriate amount of discomfort when stretching for arthritis , so you can avoid pushing yourself too far too fast.
There are many hot tub stretching exercises you can start with and add to your routine over time. Here are some basic stretches you can perform while seated in your home spa. Be sure to consult with your doctor before you begin with these stretches to understand your limitations and cautions.
- Stretch the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Begin by interlacing your fingers with your palms facing towards you. Rotate your palms away from you and push your arms outward as far as you comfortably can; hold to the count of twenty. Take a few deep breaths and repeat twice more.
- Place one hand behind the elbow of the opposite arm and extend that arm to its full length. Swing the outstretched arm toward its opposite shoulder and then in toward your chest. Optionally, you can also twist from your waist in the direction of the bent arm. Hold for twenty seconds. This will stretch your upper and lower back. Release and repeat with the other side.
- While seated in a seat or lounge in the hot tub, place both hands underneath one of your thighs behind the knee. Keeping your back straight and tall, bring your knee as close to your chest as you can and hold for as long as you are comfortably able. Then, slowly release and repeat with the other leg.
- Stretch your ankles and feet by stretching your legs out toward a wall of the hot tub and place your feet up against it. Gently push against the side with your toes until only the very tips of your toes are making contact and hold for a count of twenty. Release, wiggle your toes in the water, and repeat once or twice more.
Each stretch can be repeated until you are feeling fully limbered. Now, there is no hard and fast rule for how you can tell when you’ve done enough stretching. During the stretch itself, you should feel a gentle pull. When you release the stretch, you should feel a sense of greater relaxation in the muscles you’ve stretched. When dealing with arthritis, it’s especially important to get the most out of stretching. If you feel you need to do more of a particular stretch before proceeding to hot tub exercises, spend as much time as you need.
EFFECTIVE HOT TUB EXERCISES FOR ARTHRITIS RELIEF
Your body’s buoyancy in the water will help take some of the pressure off your joints as you exercise.
Strengthening the muscles that surround the joints will also help to minimize joint stress and to better absorb shocks in everyday movement.
The best types of hot tub exercises for arthritis relief are gentle, using the water for resistance to help build strength gradually. When you keep your hands open and move your hands and feet turned perpendicular to the water, this will help to increase the resistance and build up your strength. A daily routine of steady, controlled movements is the key to effective exercise and arthritis pain relief both in the water and in daily life.
Here are some gentle hot tub exercises you can try. Once again, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor first and adapt any exercises to your body.
For arm circles, extend your arms out to your sides until your upper body forms a T-shape. Rotate your shoulders forward so that your arms make gentle circles, dipping into the water with each rotation. Continue for 30 seconds, take a few deep breaths in between, and then reverse directions for another thirty seconds.
Sitting up straight on the edge of a seat, bend your elbows so that your forearms are at your sides and parallel to the bottom of the spa. Let your hands extend flat so your palms face the hot tub floor. Push your hands down until your fingertips point toward the bottom of the spa, and, keeping your hands extended, bring them back up to the starting position with forearms parallel to the floor. Slowly, do ten to fifteen repetitions.
With your shoulders submerged, extend your arms straight out to your sides with your hands extended. Swing one arm out straight in front of you and continue the movement until your fingertips come to meet your other hand—or as close as you are able. Slowly, unfold that straight arm back out to its starting position, and do the same with the other arm. Do ten to fifteen repetitions on each arm. Notice how, if you keep your thumbs always pointing up, you experience greater water resistance as your open hands push against the water.
Exercise your legs and abdominals with underwater flutter kicks. While seated, keep your legs underwater and extend them straight out. Do your best to keep them straight as you kick them one at a time as if you were swimming. Maintain these kicks for 30 seconds or until you become tired.
Bicycle crunches start off in the same position as flutter kicks. With both legs straight out from your seat, bend one leg and bring the knee in toward your chest as far as you are able. Return it slowly to straight and do the same with the other leg. Counting both leg movements as a single crunch, do ten to fifteen repetitions.
The hot tub exercises described above are an effective way to get moving while taking advantage of the water for resistance and strength building. They are meant to be performed as a circuit of exercises done in succession, two or three times total. You may include additional exercises in your workout as you improve. However, every person and their arthritis pain is different, and your workout should reflect your needs and endurance.
Work at your own pace, and if you find any exercise painful, stop and consult with your doctor before attempting it again. The key is to do what you can to improve your flexibility and reduce arthritis pain, so be mindful of your body’s limits as well as its progress.
A DAILY HOT TUB EXERCISE ROUTINE CAN HELP RELIEVE ARTHRITIS PAIN AND STIFFNESS
Remember to do what you can as often as you are comfortably able to. Improving arthritis pain and health is a gradual process that takes patience and requires doing range-of-motion exercises like stretching every day and strength-building exercises every other day.
You should, of course, tailor your exercise routine to how you feel on any given day. It may be beneficial for gradual arthritis relief to make time as often as possible for hot tub exercises. Set yourself up for success — a Hot Spring® spa at home will be ready when you are — to unleash your best self, every day.