Water Exercise with EDS: Suggestions for Success
Natalie Dowty, PT, MPT, EdD
The water is an ideal exercise environment for those with chronic pain/illness. The following are a few of the many benefits of the unique properties of water:
- Reduced impact on joints.
- Total body, multi-directional resistance.
- Reduced pain during exercise.
- Support through range of motion.
- Enhanced balance and decreased fear of falling.
- Increased well-being.
In order to make the most of a water exercise program, it helps to be aware specific cautions for those with EDS.
Beware of flotation weights. Most flotation resistance devices are too large and buoyant, and may put unnecessary stress on sensitive joints, especially wrist, shoulder and thumb joints. Attention to hand, wrist and forearm direction against water resistance can get you a great work out without the use of these devices.
Begin your program gradually. Start with 15 minutes or less of water movement and add five or 10 minutes each time, as tolerated. The goal is to avoid aggravating symptoms and to allow connective tissue to adapt to the multidimensional resistance of the water.
Start in chest deep water. Loose joints often respond better in normal standing and walking position, with the feet in contact with the bottom of the pool. This provides stability that deep water exercise does not offer.
Maintain good posture. There’s a tendency to elevate your shoulders when you’re in the water, especially if the water is cool. Try to keep your shoulders down, relax your neck, jaw and back.
Breathe deeply. Along with the tendency to elevate the shoulders, there is a tendency to breathe from the upper chest. The water pressure may make it feel strange, but allow your breath to fill your belly and rib cage in all directions. The water resistance will strengthen your breathing.
Put your heels on the ground. Buoyancy makes us want to stand on and over-use the ball of the foot in the water. Use a heel-toe pattern during water walking to avoid foot pain and so that your heel cords don’t become short and tight.
Move from your core. Use your strong back muscles, rather than your neck, to stabilize your arms. Gently engage your ab muscles before working your arms and legs, to provide a solid center from which to move.
Thin microfiber towels allow you to carry more drying power with less weight.
If you chill easily, here are some additional suggestions:
Wear a close-fitting long sleeve shirt in the water. This holds a layer of warm water next to your skin.
Use a wet shammy (chamois) immediately after leaving the water to remove most of the water from your body and stop evaporation process that cools the skin.
Put on a fleece / microfiber jacket or wrap immediately after exiting the pool. This is particularly helpful if the locker room is cool.