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Tips for Dropping Chronic Pain
by Mary Essert, BA, ATRIC
Reprinted with permission from the AquaJogger Newsletter

It's not just for weight loss. Although many "Drop it in Six" challengers are making waves in fitness and weight loss goals, quite a few wish to drop something else entirely-- chronic pain.

At a certain point in life, almost everyone suffers some kind of day-to-day pain. It could be anything from lower-back aches, an old sports injury that never healed, to limitations from conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Water workouts and therapy are amazing in the aspect that they can provide relief from pain without medication.

However, when exercising with pain, there are special considerations and rules of safety to keep in mind. Without proper attention and care during treatments, the pain can become worse instead of better. With over 5 decades of aquatic therapy experience, Mary Essert, Arthritis Foundation Trainer, shows us what to consider while treating pain with water.

In the following excerpt from Fibromyalgia Frontiers, Essert advises, "Know yourself, your abilities, needs, limitations, water experience, comfort and conditioning level. Listen to your body; you know it best. New pain is a sign to reduce activity or stop."

  • Practice proper body alignment--neutral spine, rib cage lifted, shoulders back, and low, abdominal and back muscles.
  • Use firm, slight forward pelvic tilt (hips slightly forward), breathe normally (abdominal breathing).
  • Achieve trunk stabilization (all muscles from shoulders to hips firm).
  • Avoid hyperextension (or locking) of spine or joints.
  • Learn safe transfer of body weight (transferring body weight from side to side, or back to front, with proper balance).
  • Avoid shoulder impingement--avoid leaning against wall with arms outstretched behind you for support.
  • Note high risk areas: knees, shoulders, neck, low back, ankle, foot.
  • Avoid fatigue.
  • Stretch warm muscles (walk before stretching).
  • Try a carefully graduated program of nonfatiguing exercises.
  • Monitor yourself carefully.
  • If overweight, lose weight.
  • Listen to your body, but donít give up.Try 10 -15 minutes 3x per week for a start.
  • Pay attention, and practice mindful movement.
  • Remember, only you can control breathing and posture; be conscious of them at all times.
REMEMBER SAFETY FIRST! Never go into a pool or hot tub alone. Always have another person along, even if that person stays on the deck. Learn to scull (make figure 8ís with your wrist), and also learn to recover from a float to a standing position.

Mary B. Essert, B.A., ATRIC is involved internationally in presenting and teaching swimming, safety, water fitness, and therapeutic intervention techniques since 1949. She is currently employed by Conway Regional Health Systems and Conway Therapy Services (Conway, AR). Her focus on breast cancer, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions results from personal experience.

Her books and videos, including several on fibromyalgia, arthritis and breast cancer, are available at

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