Being in the water is always such a wonderful and soothing experience for me. While many other physical activities often become difficult with hip dysplasia, you may find you are able to move more comfortably in water. Unlike gym equipment or exercise bikes which I sometimes find aren’t the right ‘fit’ for your body, the water envelops and supports your body perfectly. When I step in the pool, the the bouyant force makes me feel lighter and I find my body relaxing and as it is held by the water.
When I go to the swimming pool, I don’t set myself a target of lengths. I just listen to how my hips are feeling and if I’m very sore sometimes I just stretch and do exercises that I have learned in hydrotherapy. If I feel better, I swim lengths and really enjoy being able to raise my heart rate. After having two PAO surgeries, I am still able to do front crawl, back crawl and breaststroke. As someone who has a lot of lower back pain, swimming has really helped to ease and strengthen this area. I always spend some time doing basic stretching and walking or running in the water. I bring a float to focus on kicking my legs or if my hips are sore I put the float between my legs and use my arms and feeling my core muscles gentle working. I love floating on my back too! There are many people who use the pool for rehabilitation so you won’t be alone in doing exercises in the pool.
If you haven’t been swimming for a long time or have never really been a swimmer and are a bit hesitant to start, here are a few suggestions:
- Go with a friend or family member
- Try a number of local pools as you may prefer one over another. One might be warmer or you may find one you didn’t know existed!
- If you can, find a time of day when the pool is less busy.
- Every pool provides easier access into the water - such as gradient steps or hoists if you ask at reception
- Find a lane or an area of the pool where you feel comfortable.
- Don’t feel you have to swim a lot or even swim at all. Just moving in the water can help to gently stretch and strengthen your muscles.
- Bring flip flops/crocs/ whatever you can walk in for walking on the wet poolside.
You may even want to try natural swimming in the sea, lake or ponds (if you can swim out your depth)! It’s not for everyone but some people find it a really wonderful experience. There have been times during recoveries where I have found that the cold water is not helpful for my muscles, but as I have become stronger, the cold is exhilarating and it helps to lift my mood!
Being in the water has been the single activity that has helped me the most whilst managing my hip dysplasia. It is definitely my happy place! I really hope that if you haven’t tried it before, it can help you too!