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The Benefits of Water Exercise for Arthritis


The Largest Circulation Newspaper in Putnam County, June 5, 2013

Jean Park, MD - Board Certified Rheumatologist

Arthritis is the nation's most common disability, affecting 50 million adults in America. Be­tween 2007 and 2009, 50 percent of adults 65 years or older re­ported an arthritis diagnosis. For seniors who suffer from the ail­ment, new research recommends the benefit of water aerobics to ease their pain.

"For seniors who feel stymied by arthritis pain, all too often the prospect of increasing movement is the last thing they want to do because they fear injuring them­selves further,” said Dr. Jean Park of Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Group in New York. “But exercise in the water adds buoyancy and protects inflamed joints, and it can be fun."

Arthritis is an inflammation of a joint, usually accompanied by pain, swelling and stiffness, and it may occur as a result of infection, trauma or degenerative change. Investigators at the University of Minnesota reviewed 193 stud­ies published between 1970 and 2012, looking at pain functioning and disability of those suffering from arthritis pain. Their research was published in the Nov. 6, 2012 issue of the “Annals of Internal Medicine.”

"One of the more interesting findings of this study is that per­severance counts,” said Park. “For seniors who begin a recommended exercise, such as water aerobics, sticking to it is associated with better outcomes."

The results from the study indicate that water exercise pa­tients report less pain, improved joint function, increased muscle strength and better perceived qual­ity of life and well-being.

However, Park cautions that complying with an exercise does not mean exercising intensely. "In fact, moderate exercise is just fine,” she said. “The Minnesota study did not find intense exer­cise to be associated with better outcomes."

The U.S. Agency for Health-care Research and Quality funded the research.

The findings of the study echo the call months earlier by the Arthritis Foundation for more physical activity for those with arthritis. The foundation's report called educating those who suffer from arthritis about the benefits of exercise an "urgent" task.

Dr. Park agrees.

"So many people are affected by the disease and that number is expected to rise as the population of older Americans continues to rise," she said.

She explains that while the study found water aerobics as one of three forms of exercise help­ing those with arthritis, the study was at odds with benefits of other methods of pain management, such as tai chi and massage.

Dr. Jean Park is a rheuma­tologist at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. She is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology and is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology.

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