MARIETTA - A nice warm bath or shower can do wonders for relieving the pain of achy joints and muscles, and that's the basic idea behind warm water aquatic therapy currently being offered at a couple of local pools.
Twelve years ago, at age 76, Carmen Knight of Marietta was facing knee replacement surgery-a procedure she dreaded. Then she discovered warm water therapy at the Betsey Mills Club pool in Marietta.
"I was using a walker the first time I came for the pool therapy," she said. "I started coming here five days a week. Now I'm 88 and walk on my own. With this warm water therapy I may live to be 100 and still never need my knee replaced."
Instructor Deb Shockey, lower right, leads a warm water aquatic therapy session at the Betsey Mills Club pool Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
Geneva Carpenter, 80, of Marietta, suffers from arthritis and has also learned the benefits of immersing herself in the club's pool of 89-degree water.
"This keeps me walking," she said. "I've had arthritis in my legs and shoulder for about 17 years now, and this really helps."
Carpenter said her regular dips in the pool, including special exercises led by Red Cross-certified warm water therapy instructor Deb Shockey, keeps her joints in shape.
"I had to stop for five weeks one time after having surgery, and I really missed this," she said.
Warm water therapy is also offered at the Ewing School's newly-renovated pool, where Anna Vukovic is an Arthritis Foundation-certified instructor.
"I've been doing this for 15 years, and I love it." she said. "Anyone can participate-you don't even have to have arthritis to benefit. We usually see older people coming for the therapy, but age doesn't matter."
Vukovic said the therapy works because it combines pool water resistance for strengthening muscles and heated water for relaxing muscles.
"You can consider it therapy or just exercise," she said. "And if you fall while in the water, you won't get hurt."
Vukovic said instructors may use different techniques, but she begins her hour-long sessions with a five-minute warm-up to get clients' bodies acclimated to the water, then she concentrates on upper-body movement during the first half of the session and works on lower-body movement for the second half.
"We also take a break which allows them time to swim or just walk around the pool and socialize," she said. "The sessions are almost like a social time for everyone, and they really like it."
Linda Lewis, executive director at the Betsey Mills Club, said warm water therapy has been available there for more than 20 years.
"It's fantastic if you're having physical therapy, and physicians often recommend patients to take warm water therapy, but people also just come in on their own," she said. "And you don't have to be a club member to participate, although we do offer a discount for our members."
Lewis said anyone can try the warm water therapy out as it's offered at 2 p.m. five days a week at the club pool.
"The water helps improve motion and promotes fluidity in muscles and joints-it's sort of a massaging effect," she said. "And it's great for reducing pain, even low back pain."
Lewis added that people like Knight who may be facing knee or hip replacement can also benefit greatly from the warm water therapy, both prior to and after the surgery.