Hydrotherapy is a great form of water exercise for treating several forms of arthritis problems. Water buoyancy immensely mitigates the pressure on the joints, making it simpler to perform the needed range of motion exercise. Physical activity may help people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) lessen symptoms and make regular activities much easier. Exercises for RA are aimed to work on the patient strength, flexibility, range of movement, aerobic conditioning and water exercises cover all these areas.

Hydrotherapy is a type of low impact water exercise that takes the pressure off the joints. This exercise pattern can be customized as per the fitness and ability level of the patient and makes it the best choice for people living with RA.
Three people doing hydrotherapy

Read this article to understand what hydrotherapy is, how it may help people with RA and hydrotherapy exercises to do.

Also Read: Factors that contribute to Rheumatoid Arthritis

What Is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy, also known as water or aquatic physiotherapy and is performed in a pool. The water should be warm, and the depth should be adjusted between a person’s waist and shoulders. A fitness instructor or a physiotherapist usually takes this kind of session. Additionally, hydrotherapy exercises are also done by people to:

Enhance circulation

Improve relaxation

Treat problems involving the musculoskeletal system

Relieve anxiety, pain, and depression

Also, hydrotherapy works remarkably well to ease the symptoms of some types of arthritis.

Also Read: 5 Amazing Essential Oils To Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis

How Does Hydrotherapy Help RA?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease categorised by inflammation and joint damage caused due to free radicals called reactive oxygen species (ROS) and immune cells. Hydrotherapy can help to slow down this damage. Evidence has revealed that people with RA who had combined treatment methods of medication and hydrotherapy lowered damage from ROS. Moderate intensity hydrotherapy workouts are generally recommended in RA treatment.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Research has found that hydrotherapy lessens RA symptoms such as pain and joint tenderness while easing tension and enhancing mood and overall quality of life.

This type of physical therapy supports people with RA to exercise more comfortably and minimise the chance of injury. As discomfort is unlikely people with RA are more motivated to form this type of workout.

In hydrotherapy, water supports the weight and there’s minimal pressure on the patient’s joints and less pain. Moreover, the warmth of water also aids in soothing pain and enhancing blood flow. Water makes resistance as a person walk through it or move arms and kegs against it, this resistance builds strength and stamina.

Asides from these, it also increases aerobic fitness, which is a key factor for cardiac wellness. With RA, there is an increased risk of heart disease and performing hydrotherapy greatly lowers the risk.


Hydrotherapy exercises can be modified according to your fitness level. Whether you’re just beginning your fitness journey or an experienced athlete, there’s a possible water workout that suits each person. Exercises are performed at a person’s own pace, and they should stay well hydrated. Always remember to pay attention to how you feel and take a break if you experience any discomfort. Some of the hydrotherapy exercises that can be done by a person with RA include:

Water Walking

The health incentives of water walking for people with RA include strength and conditioning.

How To Perform:

Standing in a pool, walk forward 10-15 steps and walk backwards to your starting point.

Repeat this for 5 minutes.

Hip Kicks

This exercise may support improving strength, stamina, aerobic conditioning, flexibility, and range of movement.

How To Perform:

Hold on facing the edge of the swimming pool for support.

Begin with the leg furthest from the pool edge, keeping the leg erect and raise it in front of you so that leg is parallel with the pool edge, then lower it to its beginning position and repeat.

With the same leg, raise it to the side, then lower and repeat.

Now turn around so you are holding the edge of the pool with your other hand and do both movements with other legs.

Repeat for three sets for 10 kicks for each leg.

Forward Lunges

Forward lunge may help people with RA improve endurance, strength, flexibility, and range of movement.

How To Perform:

Stand on to the edge of the pool for support.

Take a big step forward and lower yourself onto the front leg while keeping the head above water. To safeguard your front knee, ensure it stays behind the toes.

Return to start position.

Repeat the same movement with other legs.

Do this for three sets of 10 lunges per leg.


Hydrotherapy exercise may work well for people with RA, these water exercises are more comfortable than a land workout. It can be done in group sessions at your local swimming pool or also with a help of a physiotherapist in a specialized setting. Doing these exercises regularly benefits people with RA in easing symptoms, providing relief, and optimising overall health and well-being.