From easing muscle tension to helping reduce stress, water therapy and spa experiences may have benefits for people with PsA.
I used to really want to find homeopathic and natural solutions to stand in as a treatment for my psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
I had managed to treat my scalp psoriasis largely with diet, exercise, and regular sun exposure, but when my PsA started to impair my mobility, I had to concede and finally visit a rheumatologist.
I’m very glad I made the move, as I’ve found the right combination of medicine that has mostly put my condition into remission (at least for now), but I still try to lead a healthy lifestyle.
I look for natural practices and habits that will make me an overall healthier and less stressed person. That’s why I’ve become somewhat obsessed with self-care and especially spa experiences.
The Nordic spa circuit — sometimes known as hydrotherapy or water circuits — may offer potential benefits to people with PsA. It’s one of my favorite treatments to indulge in whenever I can.
“Nordic spas provide a unique wellness experience that combines hot and cold hydrotherapy treatments and relaxation techniques,” said Dr. Sean Ormond, a dual board certified physician in anesthesiology and interventional pain management. “These spas typically offer a range of facilities, such as hot baths, saunas, steam rooms, and cold plunge pools.”
The scientific research on the direct benefits of Nordic spas for arthritis is limited, but according to Ormond, the hydrotherapy and heat treatments that spas offer may help alleviate arthritis symptoms.
“Alternating between hot and cold treatments may help reduce joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis,” he explained. “The warmth from hot baths and saunas can help relax muscles, increase blood circulation, and decrease joint stiffness, while the cold plunge pools can help numb pain and reduce inflammation.”
According to Ormond, this can be particularly beneficial for those with arthritis, as it can help them maintain a better range of motion and reduce discomfort.
My experience at the Ritual Nordic Spa in Victoria, British Columbia, offered a super peaceful and welcoming space to test out this theory.
I instantly noticed my muscles loosen and my joints get a little less stiff. The cold plunge pool wasn’t pleasant, but it felt as though the inflammation was instantly evaporating from my body.
I was a little worried that catching a chill would provoke pain — the winter months are the worst for my body — so I spent some extra time in the sauna after each cold plunge to counteract the chill.
“Nordic spas often incorporate relaxation and mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, which can help reduce stress levels,” Ormond said. “Since stress can exacerbate arthritis symptoms, finding ways to manage stress can benefit overall well-being.”
I absolutely noticed my stress levels reduce throughout the 2-hour water circuit experience. There’s something extremely soothing about locking my phone away in the changing room and fully leaning into the art of relaxation.
The spa I visited also had a halotherapy (salt) room built into the circuit. At the end of the water circuit, I was so relaxed I fell asleep in one of the lounge chairs.
Once you’ve completed the hydrotherapy portion of a spa experience, I recommend taking advantage of the lounge areas rather than rushing out of the spa.
Ormond also pointed out that visiting a Nordic spa can provide opportunities for social interaction, which can help improve mood and reduce feelings of isolation that some individuals with arthritis may experience.
I work from home as a freelance writer. Admittedly, I do feel a bit lonely not having colleagues to keep me company throughout the day. Though I regularly meet up with friends after work for drinks or dinner, having uninterrupted time to enjoy being near each other without having to do anything or fill gaps in the conversation felt like a nice change of pace.
Ormond mentioned that the heat and relaxation techniques offered at Nordic spas could also help promote better sleep by easing muscle tension and encouraging relaxation.
“Adequate sleep is essential for overall health and can help reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis,” he explained.
Even with my impromptu nap in the halotherapy room, I slept like a baby after my hydrotherapy spa experience. I’ll absolutely start to incorporate more Nordic spa days into my routine.
I used to mainly splurge on massage therapy as a way to relax, but the Nordic water circuit is much more economical. It might even provide more benefits for inflammation and joint pain.
Before starting any new treatment or wellness routine, it’s essential to talk with a healthcare professional, particularly if you have arthritis or other medical conditions.
“Your doctor can help determine if Nordic spa treatments suit your specific needs and advise on safely incorporating them into your wellness plan,” Ormond said.
Medically reviewed on June 16, 2023
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