Aqua Therapy for Pain Relief


This is a guest post from freelance medical writer Allison Ross Kirsop Ph.D.

I’m not about to lecture on hydrogen bonding, but it’s worth noting that many people would benefit from water-based treatments and exercise when they have issues with bones, muscles, and joints. And I’m not talking about swimming either. If there’s anything that’s guaranteed to leave me crippled, it’s a few lengths of breaststroke. I’m no expert, but the forced curvature of the spine in this stroke doesn’t seem sensible for back sufferers. Obviously, I’m referring to ordinary people and not athletes with excellent technique. For the rest of us mere mortals flailing about just trying to get fitter, we end up worse than when we started.


For me, aqua jogging has been a revelation and allows me to help myself, to treat my back pain. A flotation belt is perfect for supporting your body weight, making each movement of the arms and legs comfortable. I can stretch to my full length and try to create space between the vertebrae, or adopt a position that suits my back pain, depending on where I am on the pain scale that day. I have invented a new stroke recently which I call ‘The Recumbent’ after the bicycle of the same name which puts the rider in a reclining position, taking the strain away from the lower vertebrae. I use this position when I’m pretty sore, and nothing else is helping. For me, being bent forward from the middle is the only relief I get, and this position helps enormously. Bringing me on to…


Hydrospin is stationary cycling under water. The water is waist height, and the bikes are on the pool floor. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s because there are very few facilities available in the UK. The Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, UK is where I attend, and I believe there are more in England. With arthritis in my knee as well as the back pain I find this type of exercise invaluable. The cycling motion really improves my pain levels in the knee area, while being able to bend forward on the bike alleviates the back pain. A win-win combo. And I feel great after it too.


One problem that clinicians face when treating any disease or physical ailment is patient adherence to medication or other therapies. It’s a problem, and when you are in pain it takes real strength of mind to even attempt a new form of exercise, never mind sticking to it. Although I do enjoy aqua jogging and hydrospin, I can’t honestly say that I religiously go to the pool every week. I should, because my pain is less when I do – but I don’t. When I started earlier in 2016 I was attending twice a week, but of course, life has a habit of getting in the way and before you know it, you’ve missed a few sessions and lost your routine and you’re back where you started. It’s really difficult, and I know that if I don’t go I’m in pain. If I do go, it helps, and I feel better about myself. My choice.

I’m off to book a class for next week…

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