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Reader Question: Swimming for Arthritis ?

I have osteoarthritis throughout my body. My neck, shoulders and right hip are the worst. Which sport can I practice? I would like to swim, is this possible?
– Lida

 

Mark Chen, physiotherapist:

Osteoarthritis means that the quantity and sometimes quality of the cartilage is reduced. We also call it ‘wear-and-tear’. This is a normal phenomenon and sooner or later we will all experience it. It can cause pain symptoms but it doesn’t have to. The cartilage acts as a shock absorb-er. The joints can start to hurt if there is too much pressure on the amount of cartilage.

Swimming is therefore often an obvious choice; in the water you only weigh about 20 percent of your weight ‘on the dry’. So it is a very friendly way of moving for your joints. In addition, you also use almost all muscles while swimming. It provides a good blood circulation and improves the endurance of the strength-supplying muscles. Swimming can also ensures a quick improvement of the cardio-vascular system! Swimmers are among the fittest athletes in the sports world.

There are, however, a number of side notes to make. Posture and technique are important during swimming. Especially the neck can sometimes suffer severely. Take for example the breaststroke, which is popular with many swimmers. Take a good look and you will see many people swimming with an unnatural position of the neck. Almost as if the head is forced to be kept above water. If there is wear and tear at the vertebrae where this “kink” exists, it could cause more complaints instead of less.

The same applies to the shoulder. A considerable amount of movement is needed to make a nice stroke and sometimes osteoarthritis is accompanied by clear limitations in mobility.

Swimming is a nice and friendly sport for the body, but I recommend to look at the above factors. Any physical limitations can be picked up and possibly treated by a physiotherapist possibly in combination with a swimming instructor.

 

Good luck!

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