Spinal arthritis treatment typically begins conservatively, or non-surgically, because most symptoms associated with the condition can be managed indefinitely through conservative treatments. In fact, there are a number of effective non-surgical treatments available for patients with spinal arthritis, but perhaps one of the most beneficial methods is swimming.
How Swimming Can Help Treat Arthritis
There are more than 100 types of arthritis and millions of people around the world suffer from some form of the disease. Osteoarthritis is the most frequently diagnosed form, which typically affects the knees, hips, fingers, and the spine. Our bodies are subjected to high levels of stress and pressure as we stand, sit, walk, run, bend, twist, and turn, and our joints tend to bear the brunt of this stress. Spinal osteoarthritis is defined as the deterioration of the soft, friction-reducing cartilage lining the facet joints of the spine and symptoms of inflammation, tenderness, joint stiffness, and pain may develop as a result.
Swimming as spinal arthritis treatment can help relieve joint pain for several reasons, including:
• Less stress on the back – On the ground, we are subjected to the forces of gravity, but in water, we are buoyant. This means less pressure is placed on an arthritic spine while in the water.
• Reduced joint and muscular pain – As a result of the reduced stress placed on the spine while swimming, a spinal arthritis patient may find that joints become less painful while in the water. Plus, swimming in warm water can help alleviate muscle tension and promote overall relaxation.
• A lowered risk of additional injury – Some high-impact exercises can cause more damage to arthritic joints. Swimming is a low-impact exercise and is less likely to cause additional injuries to the back or neck.
Additional Exercises for Spinal Arthritis Treatment
Although exercising may seem counterproductive to alleviating spinal arthritis pain, low-impact exercises can be often provide a number of helpful benefits, including:
• Increasing oxygen-rich blood flow near painful areas to provide nutrients to damaged joints and flush waste products
• Reducing joint pain and stiffness
• Strengthening core muscles to better support the spine
• Maintaining overall health and weight
• Producing endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever
Walking, gardening, and light aerobics are additional low-impact exercises besides swimming that spinal arthritis patients may find beneficial. Long, deep stretching techniques and methods, such as those taught in yoga, tai chi, and Pilates may also provide arthritis pain relief because they elongate the spine and help expand narrowed spaces in the spinal column.
However, remember to always consult your doctor and/or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise regimen, as some exercises could worsen your condition and intensify your symptoms.
Other Treatment Methods
Your doctor or spine specialist may suggest additional conservative treatments to help alleviate spinal arthritis pain. Options may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), hot and/or cold therapies, physical therapy, and facet joint injections. These conservative methods – including swimming and the other exercises mentioned above – are usually able to provide effective relief from spinal arthritis symptoms after several weeks or months of treatment. As a result, surgery is rarely suggested as a spinal arthritis treatment option and is reserved only for patients suffering debilitating pain who have exhausted all non-surgical methods.