How to treat orthopaedic and rheumatic injuries in the water (first part)

Fitness & Wellness
Written by: Marco Borreca at 21 June '16 0
You are reading: How to treat orthopaedic and rheumatic injuries in the water (first part)

At some time in your life you are likely to suffer injuries of different degrees of severity, such as accidental “sprains” or a sore knee after a game of five-a-side football.

No need to panic: there is always a solution and water might can be an invaluable ally during the rehabilitation process and for treating different kinds of pathologies.

In this first article we will start by looking at how water can be used for treating orthopaedic and rheumatic ailments.

They come in five different sub-groups and treatment is divided up into various different phases.

GROUP A includes operations to reconstruct ligaments and treat damaged cartilages, slipped discs and scoliosis.

You will be prepared both physically and mentally before the operation. The aim is to get you really motivated to work hard during the recovery phase.

You will be given lots of exercises to do after the operation with gradually increasing workloads.

During the third and final maintenance stage you will consolidate the results you have achieved and become sufficiently independent.

Example of an exercise for cartilage operations:

Leaning against the wall of the “large” pool in a vertical position and a float under your arms, bend your injured leg backwards to a maximum angle of 90°; then straighten it out again until it is back in the starting position.



GROUP B includes treatment for broken bones, dislocated joints, muscular injuries and damaged tendons.

The objectives during the post-operative stage are the same as those described for the injuries in Group A, as is the maintenance phase.

Example of an exercise for injuries to upper limbs to be performed during the maintenance phase:

Starting in a vertical position with your arms along your sides, raise your injured arm, keeping it fully extended, first up to 90° and then 180°; return to the starting position and then move it backwards to an angle of 50°. This exercise should be performed very slowly.


GROUP C includes spinal injuries and slipped discs.

To treat injuries like this you will be given relaxation exercises during the recuperation phase aimed at relaxing the muscles in question and thereby realigning your backbone properly. You will be given both passive and active exercises to stretch your back.

Example of a relaxation exercise for spinal injuries and/or slipped discs:

Lying on your back in a totally relaxed position floating in the water, your therapist will place one floating tube under your knee (kneepit) and another under your neck that should be fully extended facing upwards to take the weight off your backbone.


This exercise is also extremely useful for pregnant women and helps you fully relax your dorsal, lumbar and neck muscles.

GROUP D includes osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

The key is to keep as active as possible during the maintenance phase without inflicting too much pain. As previously stated, water can be extremely helpful in this respect, allowing you to perform simple but extremely effective exercises. The exercises may either be broken down into separate parts  – and hence focused one just part of your body – or performed in their entirety.

Example of an exercise aimed at controlling your movement and balance:

Standing in a vertical position with your arms open wide resting on floats and your feet on a board, keep your knee bent at an angle of 90°. During the second part of the exercise, try to extend your leg downwards and then return to the starting position.


GROUP E includes all other types of rheumatic ailments.

If you ever suffer acutely from this kind of ailment, you are advised to rest and take the drugs you will be prescribed.

Water massage treatment and simple movements of the joints will help reduce inflammation during the recovery phase.

On the other hand gentle exercises to maintain your muscle tone are ideal during the maintenance phase; something like aquafitness (gentle aerobics in the water), for example, can be useful.

Next month will look at neurological ailments but in the meantime enjoy a good swim and some relaxation.


Written by:

Marco Borreca

Marco Borreca was born in Milan in 1985. After his competitive swimming career, he continued his sports studies graduating from the faculty of Preventive and Adaptive Motor Sciences in Pavia. He has been working as a swimming/ fitness instructor and rehabilitation expert at various sports centres since he was very young. He mainly focuses on using water for recovering motor skills in the case of sports injuries and disabilities. He currently works for a municipal sports centre as the Head of Fitness and also works for a private practice as a kinesiologist.