Water Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease and Arthritis

I’ve completed 14 Aqua therapy sessions. It’s a wonderful place where the water in the swimming pool is maintained at 88 degrees. A very large hot tub is also available and although there is a steady procession of people in and out, it is never too crowded.

People of all ages arrive regularly by car from their homes or buses from the surrounding apartment buildings, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They may walk in stooped, using canes, in wheel chairs but they all enter for the same reason to exercise their way to stronger muscles, pain relief and better health.

My health care plan (Kaiser) sent me there for swim and exercise therapy after I spoke to my doctor to request aqua therapy. Parkinson’s patients learn that they must be very proactive about their course of treatment.

My first eight sessions were water therapy, the last six combination’s of water and nautilus therapy. I’m being treated for arthritis in my knees as well as improving my walking stride, balance and stability because of Parkinson’s disease. The course of my exercises was designed for my specific needs after a very thorough diagnostic on the first day.

The water exercises they have taught me are mostly various forms of walking: forwards, sideways, backwards, Mohawk where one foot crosses over the other – like ice skating around a curve – along with a number of leg lifting exercises for my knees. The resistance of the water isn’t noticeable. Doing those same exercises out of the water would be very painful because of the arthritis. It would be even more difficult to achieve any balance out of the water because of the PD. There are also stretching exercises to reduce the stiffness although really all of the water exercises help to reduce stiffness caused by tightening muscles.

The left side of my body is the side most challenged. It was the tingling in my left hand and later the tremors which sent me to the doctor for the PD diagnosis. When I do leg and arm exercises in the water or in the exercise room, I do one set of reps for my right side and another set for my left side, this time using less weight. My left side cannot handle the heavier weight. I’m trying to strengthen my left side.

Using the buoyancy of the water to protect my knees while I exercise vigorously, my legs are regaining some strength and have started to feel better even when I’m out of the water.

The nautilus exercises are designed to strengthen my upper and lower body and to help me regain flexibility. I’m starting to have the feeling that some of my muscles are beginning to get back into shape.

Now I plan to continue these exercises there several times a week which I can do because they offer a program for people who have already been there for therapy. They asked me before my covered sessions ended if I wished to continue and since I did, I enrolled in their Wellness Program. Although I do not meet with a therapist very often in the self-pay program, I am required to complete an exercise history of each session so that they can continue to track my progress. Therapists are available in all areas should I have a pressing question.

While I don’t particularly enjoy exercising, I do enjoy losing the pain in my knees and regaining some of the strength I used to have.