Hydrotherapy for Pain Relief

What is Hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is used in the treatment of different conditions, including arthritis and related rheumatic complaints. You will be completing a range of special exercises in water which is around 33–36ºC, typically warmer than a swimming pool. It involves special exercises that you do in a warm-water pool.

Your Hydrotherapy treatment should usually happen within a hospital’s physiotherapy department. A specialist trainer will show you how to do the exercises, which will be adjusted to help your range of movement or strength, depending on your symptoms.

Hydrotherapy isn’t the same as Aquarobics, because it’s generally slower, with more controlled movements, offering stress-relief and relaxation at the same time. Generally, you’ll share a pool with other people of similar symptoms, though exercises are tailored to each person.

According to this website, Hydrotherapy is good for:

  • back pain
  • rheumatic pain and arthritis
  • anxiety and stress
  • poor muscle and skin tone
  • poor circulation
  • muscle pain and inflammation
  • headaches
  • hip or other joint replacements (before and after the operations)
  • muscle or ligament injuries; broken limbs
  • neurological conditions such as strokes or brain injuries

Hydrotherapy is beneficial to mostly anyone and is used if you’ve had joint replacement surgery or if you have back pain, ankylosing spondylitis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, and more. In scientific studies, Hydrotherapy has been shown to improve fitness and strength in people with various types of arthritis, and is one of the safest treatments for back pain and Arthritis.

How do I Get Started with Hydrotherapy?


Hydrotherapy sessions are available on the NHS, with most hospitals having access to hydrotherapy pools. Your doctor should be able to refer you to an NHS physiotherapist. Whislt you can choose to go privately, it’s important to be aware that occasionally, private Hydrotherapy could be unregulates, thus affecting the quality and effectiveness of the treatment.

If a physiotherapist is qualified, they will be registered with the Health Professionals Council. It could help, as well, to use someone who is accredited by the Aquatic Therapy of Chartered Physiotherapists, as they will specialise in aquatic-based exercise techniques.

If using the NHS, you should be seen by the physiotherapist most local to you. They’ll assess your individual needs, normally taking about thirty minutes. If Hydrotherapy is determined to be the right course of action for your needs, you will begin your treatment, with a course of Hydrotherapy usually involving five or six thirty-minute sessions.

What do I need?


You should take:

  • A Towel
  • A swimsuit / bathing costume
  • Any medication that you would need while exercising
  • Shampoo and shower gel, for showering off

Other information:


With Hydrotherapy, you don’t need to be able to swim to receive its benefits. The pool is typically about chest height, so you can exercise well whilst feeling safe. There will always be two members of the healthcare team with you, one in the pool, and floats should be available.

There may be a few steps down into the pool, but should you have trouble there should be a mechanical hoist to help you in and out of the water. Some pools are graded from shallow to deep so you can simply walk in. The type of pool available will differ depending on your location. Usually, there is also a rail around the edge of the pool, should you need extra support.

What Happens After my Hydrotherapy Ends?


The main aim of your Hydrotherapy treatment is to train you aptly and boost your confidence, so that you can continue and manage your own exercises regime. Not only would this serve to mobilise you, but could reap lifetime benefits for pain management.

Most swimming pools have sessions especially for exercise, meaning no families and children won’t get in the way. Also, many pools offer water-based exercise classes, though you should ask to observe one to ensure the class is right for you. Don’t feel shy about asking the instructor to adapt some of the exercises for your arthritis.

You could also look into paying for further sessions without the physiotherapist in the hospital pool, if that course is available. Lastly, some of your local arthritis support groups may hire a hospital or health club pool for hydrotherapy sessions, so it’s worth getting in touch for that as well as the support it may offer.


Find out more, download and print off a guide, or order a printed leaflet today from Arthritis Research UK.

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