Hydrotherapy & Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease characterized by limitation of movement, joint pain and tenderness. It is often also associated with muscle weakness. It is a common disease that affects approximately 30% of the population between 50 and 70 years of age, and this percentage increases in older age groups. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include obesity, physical inactivity, and muscle weakness.

Conservative treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and preventing further development of the disease. Exercise has been shown to be the best treatment for people who have pain associated to osteoarthritis. One alternative to land based exercise is hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy involves pool based exercises which are individually prescribed and progressed by a supervising physiotherapist. The properties of the water are used to relax muscles, provide body weighted support, modify exercise resistance, or improve quality of movement. Hydrotherapy can also be used as a way of reducing weight and increasing cardiovascular fitness.

Research by Silva et al (2008) showed that water based exercises are a suitable and effective alternative for the management of knee OA compared to land based exercises, with hydrotherapy shown to be superior to land based exercise in relieving pain before and after walking at 18 weeks follow-up. Furthermore, Lund et al (2008) showed that aquatic exercise has significantly less adverse effects compared with a land-based programme.

A study by Hinman et al (2007) showed that a 6 week aquatic therapy program resulted in less pain and joint stiffness and greater physical function, quality of life, and hip muscle strength compared to no treatment. Additionally, a study by Foley et al (2003) who compared hydrotherapy versus gym program versus no treatment. Results showed functional gains were achieved with both the exercise programmes compared to the no treatment group.

So if you would like to book an appointment for hydrotherapy, please call our rooms on 4721 5788!

Stephanie Randall works full-time at our Penrith rooms. Stephanie coordinates our Hydrotherapy service and our GLAD Australia program (exercise program for knee and hip osteoarthritis). Stephanie’s special interest areas include: sports injuries, vestibular physiotherapy and the management of osteoarthritis through exercise.


  • Foley, A., Halbert, J., Hewitt, T., Crothy, M. (2003). Does hydrotherapy improve strength and physical function in patients with osteoarthritis—a randomised controlled trial comparing a gym based and a hydrotherapy based strengthening programme. Ann Rheum Dis 2003;62:1162–1167
  • Hinman, Rana S; Heywood, Sophie E; Day, Anthony R. (2007). Aquatic Physical Therapy for Hip and Knee Osteoarthritis: Results of a Single-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Physical Therapy; Washington87.1(Jan 2007): 32-43.
  • Lund, et al (2008). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Aquatic and Land-Based Exercise in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 40.2 (Feb 2008);137-144(8).
  • Silva et al. (2008). Hydrotherapy Versus Conventional Land-Based Exercise for the Management of Patients With Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Clinical Trial.  Physical Therapy; Washington88.1 (Jan 2008): 12-21