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Pain Relief

Hot Tubs and Pain Relief

Hydrotherapy -- or water therapy -- has been around for hundreds of years. In fact, the practice of using hot water to ease tension, improve circulation, soothe sore muscles, and treat arthritis pain dates back to ancient times. Early Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Japanese physicians recommended soaking in hot springs to treat a variety of ailments.

Today, doctors and physical therapists still use hydrotherapy to help their patients recover from injury and surgery and deal with chronic disease -- with a few updates, of course. Modern patients don’t have to seek out hot springs to get relief from things like muscle tension and arthritis pain. The popularity of spas and hot tubs have made hydrotherapy as simple as stepping outside into your own backyard.

Of course, it’s easy for us to sing the praises of hot tub ownership. So to get some unbiased opinions, we asked medical professionals, spa experts, and people with chronic medical conditions to tell us how hot tubs can help ease pain, relieve tension, and improve quality of life:

Dr. Rick McAvoy: Low-impact training and exercise

If you’re looking for a way to bounce back after an injury or surgery, you can’t go wrong with a hot tub, says Dr. Rick McAvoy. McAvoy holds a doctorate in physical therapy and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. He has long been an advocate of using water to help people recover from injuries and surgeries.

In 2005, McAvoy completed a study that found mixing spa therapy with land-based therapy increased the knee flexibility and function on patients who had total knee replacement surgery. The buoyancy of water decreases the impact that exercise has on your joints, and the heat helps improve your range of motion and increases your muscles’ ability to stretch and relax.

“A lot of people use their hot tubs to chill out and relax,” McAvoy says. “They’re in this great environment that you can really benefit from exercising in, and if you bought this thing, why not use it? Why not get full use out of it with training and exercise?”

Joseph Alldredge: Easing arthritis pain

Spas can also work wonders for people suffering from forms of arthritis. In fact, The Arthritis Foundation says hot water provides “a safe, ideal environment for relieving arthritis pain.”

Did you know?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. In fact, more than 54 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis.

Hot water can help relax stiff joints and muscles, providing an improved range of movement and making it easier to exercise. This is especially beneficial to people suffering from arthritis, as well as other types of chronic pain like fibromyalgia and ruptured discs. Because joint movement is painful, these patients’ range of motion becomes constricted which causes the muscles to atrophy – and increases the pain felt during movement. Warm water therapy relieves stress on the joints, improves blood flow to the affected areas, relieves pain, and minimizes physical limitations.

Joseph Alldredge, is living proof of this: he has battled painful rheumatoid arthritis since his late teens, and he recently had hip replacement surgery. He says his swim spa is an extremely effective way to stay active, decrease stiffness, and ease pain. “I typically work out first thing in the morning in order to get to work by 8 AM,” he says, adding that if he misses a morning workout he can feel a difference. “Any movement really just seems to take longer.”

Lauren Stack: Massage therapy for joints and muscles

While there’s no denying the benefits of a good workout, there’s also something to be said for rest and relaxation. And there’s no better way to kick back than in a hot tub, which combines the therapeutic properties of hot water and soothing massage therapy courtesy of the powerful hot tub jets.

“Swirling warm water increases blood supply to aching joints,” says Lauren Stack, mission development director for the National Swimming Pool Foundation. “And that, in turn, helps to reduce inflammation and pain.”

Did you know? Hot tubs can relieve insomnia, too.

Having trouble sleeping? The National Sleep Foundation says soaking in hot water can help you achieve better, deeper sleep.

Dr. Robert Goldberger: Relief from a chronic disease

In addition to easing pain and improving range of motion, hot tubs and spas also provide a low-impact form of exercise for people with disabilities or chronic conditions. The body’s buoyancy in water allows people with disabilities and chronic conditions to enjoy physical activities that would be impossible to do on dry land.

Dr. Robert Goldberger, who has multiple sclerosis, says his health significantly improved after he installed a swim spa in his backyard. “When I began my daily exercising it was the first vigorous exercise I had had for a long time.” he says. “It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d been missing something very important – a good way to burn enough calories to keep my weight in check while experiencing the pleasant psychological effects of a regular exercise regimen.”

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