The importance of pool exercise to my recovery

There are a few reasons I really enjoy getting emails from readers. For one thing, it means a lot to me to know the things I write are helping people.

Additionally, when someone writes and tells me their specific situation, answering them really helps me to clarify my thoughts.  Sometimes when I’m working on a post, I get a kind of stage fright and freak out– it’s like why the hell am I putting all this stuff about my life online?

But when someone writes to me and specifically asks for my help, it’s like I forget about all that, and just want to help someone who’s struggling with the same things I went through.

So– thank you guys for your emails.

***

I’m updating this post in November of 2020.   I wanted it to encompass the more holistic perspective I have now, compared to 2017 when I first wrote this. 

Back then, when I was in the midst of my struggle, it seemed like aquatic therapy was the only way to heal from SI joint issues.  Now I think it was just the best solution for me at the time, given the knowledge that I had.  

However, I’ve learned so much since I originally started my blog, and now I think it’s totally possible to get stronger and stabilize your pelvis with land-based exercises such as these.  

However, I still totally advocate for aquatic therapy for anyone who’s interested in it (at least, during non-Covid times) because it does have some pretty unique benefits.

Why is aquatic therapy so great?

Well, there are a few reasons, but the main one is that in my experience, it’s a great way to build muscular strength without negatively impacting your SI joints.

Basically, if you have an SI joint injury, you have likely sprained the ligaments that are supposed to hold the joint in place.  

The only way around this is to build up enough muscle strength around the joint that your muscles are able to hold things in place more.  In turn, this takes some of the pressure off of your ligaments, allowing them to heal faster.

However, if you try to do exercises you aren’t ready for (which, in my case, was just about any exercise on land), you are only going to put more pressure on the ligaments, and it will backfire.

In the pool, the water takes a lot of the weight off of your joints.  This helps to protect your joints, because there is a lot less force travelling through them as you move.

As a result, you can focus on exercises that strengthen your muscles, without having to worry about putting too much pressure on your ligaments.  This is why the pool can let you get a really intense workout that you might not be able to get on land.

You may notice that sometimes I talk about “pool exercise” and sometimes I talk about “aquatic therapy.”  Why is that?

Let me just clarify this a little bit.  Generally, if it’s at all possible, I really recommend that you consult an aquatic physical therapist.   They can give you an exercise program that is tailored to you, and make sure you’re doing your exercises with proper form.

However, speaking only as a patient sharing her own experience, I personally didn’t start out directly with aquatic PT.  I already had some experience with pool exercise, so I joined a gym and began Aqua Jogging on my own.

Over time, I did end up consulting with an aquatic PT and realizing there was a lot more that I didn’t know (such as ways to use weights or floatation devices to create resistance).  Now I know that I definitely would have benefited from having her design my exercise routine sooner.

However, I recognize that aquatic therapy might not accessible to everyone.  So it is really up to you (assuming you run your decision by your doctor).

Basically, what I ended up doing is consulting an aquatic PT a few times and making sure I was doing my exercises correctly, and then going to my gym pool on my own 4 or 5 days a week.

You can do it too.

I know, from personal experience, that finding a new place to go for aquatic PT, or a new gym with a pool, can be daunting.

But I promise you– once you find the right person, and the right place, it will be so, so worth it.  You’ll be glad you took the chance and put yourself out there.

Honestly, it’s worth it– even if you have to rearrange your whole schedule and travel farther than you might like.  Once you’re comfortable with the pool and your exercises, there’s nothing like the feeling of being able to relax and float around knowing that you’re doing something really good for yourself, and that the water will protect your joints.

I have so much more to say about additional benefits of the pool, as well as specific pool exercises and techniques that were helpful to me.  Stay tuned!

Exercise Recommendations:

People often ask me for more information on the exercises I do.  I definitely need to put up more info on this in the future!  

The number one thing I really recommend is pool running with a floatation vest.  Here is a really informative article from The Guardian on pool running, also known as aqua jogging.  

My favorite floatation vest for aquatic therapy is the Hydro-Fit Wet Vest, although some people also prefer the smaller Aqua Jogger vest

Here is a somewhat rudimentary post I wrote on pool exercises for the SI joint

Also, Dr. Jo has put some really great videos of exercises she recommends up on Youtube. Here are a few that are pretty similar to the exercises I do:

 

I also will be including more about land-based exercises to come. For now, be sure to check out this post!

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