Swimming for Hip Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is not a death sentence. Is it hereditary? Is it trauma induced? Maybe both . . . or neither. What is important is that movement, strengthening and flexibility (SMF) be maintained so that operational procedures be avoided for as long as is possible; thus minimizing the unbearability of the OA. The are several modalities that will accommodate this goal. Personally, I find that one indispensable modality comes in the form of swimming. No Michael Phelps here . . . just a pool splasher trying to get a workout in while bolstering the SMF of my hip. Let us explore the specifics of OA and how swimming can provide healthy relief to the body.

OA is a physical affliction that impacts the joints. Known as bone on bone arthritis, it can be most debilitating at the advanced stages.  It can simultaneously affect several joints which can compound functional impairment and participation restriction. In the absence of any cure, the burden of OA is increasing globally with an estimated 28% of the older population (>60 years) having OA. As a result of this condition, several hundred thousand people each year in the U.S. undergo total hip replacement. OA of the hip, for purposes of this discussion, can be managed without surgery for most people.

Incidence of osteoarthritis has been linked to several genetic markers. Although other factors are critical to developing OA, genetics are a consideration. Age-associated OA is considered primary osteoarthritis. In most cases, it occurs with wear-and-tear and an inability to rebuild lost cartilage between joints. Secondary OA occurs from a sports injury or trauma to the joint, a congenital joint disorder, or alongside inflammatory or infectious arthritis. OA

Rotation is good for golf.
This is a basic movement. Using resistance to engage the core as the movement releases the external hip/thigh rotators.

OA is manageable. It is not a final call for operational procedures. There are specialists who would and do insist upon operating at the first indications of later stage OA. They are not necessarily concerned with holistic methods of managing the condition. Strength. Mobility. Flexibility. There are aspects of wellness integral in managing OA.

Basic strengthening moves include:

  • Sit to stand. Sit in a chair. Slowly stand up, and sit back down again without using your hands. Focus on keeping your feet shoulder-width apart and knees over your feet. If you need help, use the armrests to lower yourself down. Repeat for 30 seconds.
  • Mini wall squats. Stand with your head and back against the wall. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down slightly, so that your knees bend at a 30-degree angle. Press back up to stand. Repeat 10 times.
  • One-leg balance: Stand next to a counter or table, and place one hand on it for support. Lift one leg and balance on the other for up to 10 seconds. As you get stronger, you can use one finger or let go of your support altogether. Repeat on the other side.

Basic Flexibility  Moves include:

  • Standing hip flexor stretch. Stand with your feet are hips-distance apart. Step one foot forward 1 – 1 1/2 leg lengths. Bend your back leg slightly, and slowly bend your front knee, keeping your upper body upright. (Don’t let your front knee go past your toes and align your back knee under the hip) Hold for 5 to 20 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Use a wall or the back of a chair for support, if necessary.
  • Knee to chest. Lie supine on the floor, knees bent and feet flat (or straighten your legs in front of you). Bring one knee into your hands. Gently pull your knee toward your chest. Hold for 1 to 5 seconds. Repeat three times then switch sides.
  • Double Hip Rotation: Rotate your knees slowly to your left, toward the floor. Rotate your head to face right while keeping your shoulders against the floor. Maintain this position up to 30 seconds. Return both to the starting position.

Basic Mobility moves include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Elliptical training
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

These three aspects of managing OA are key to functionally thriving on a day to day basis. It is manageable only on a day to day as some days are better, or worse, than others. Inflammation due to overexertion can, and does, occur. It does subside. If the activity is kept within ‘certain limits’, inflammation will not be too overwhelming.

Of all the activities that allow for optimal managing of OA, swimming or water related activities are vital to that end.  Your body is more buoyant due to being supported by water. This helps in overcoming painful movement in the affected joints. Swimming tones the supporting muscles without the discomfort of other exercises. Swimming mitigates arthritis (OA) risk by allowing a person to maintain their normal muscle strength and structure of joints. Water therapy is an excellent option for patients with osteoarthritis of the kneeship osteoarthritis, and spinal osteoarthritis due to the decreased pressure placed on the joints. The only hinderance to swimming is that access to pools is not equitably possible throughout society.

Lets go take a swim, go to a water aerobics class or don some water running gear and dive in . . . . .

Please consult with your physician before engaging in any exercise activity.

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