by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish
In today’s fast-paced society, those diagnosed with a disease, syndrome, or other ailment tend to look for a quick-fix response. However, sometimes those diagnosed with a condition look to the simple things for assistance. Often, it is the old-fashioned therapeutic responses that can benefit those afflicted with certain conditions. And, in many cases, these ailments can be treated very well with those properties that have been around since the beginning of time.
One of these mainstay properties is water.
Water therapy and water exercise is beneficial to the treatment of diseases, including Sjogren’s syndrome. According to the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation, Sjogren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing glands. Although typical symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, the disease can cause dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system.
The Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation states that patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing lymphoma.
Chippewa Valley resident Kate Gilboy was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome shortly after the birth of her son five years ago. “I began having pain and problems with range of motion in my neck; I didn’t think much of the pain at first, but it continued, worsened, and spread to other joints throughout the day,” Gilboy explained. After visiting her family practice doctor, undergoing routine tests, visiting a rheumatologist, and experiencing additional laboratory tests, Kate was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome. To be positive about the diagnosis, Kate visited a different health system for a second opinion, where she was given the same diagnosis.
Because Kate was a busy new mother and an elementary teacher, she decided to start steroids as a treatment method. “Because the steroids were a temporary fix, my rheumatologist recommended that I take a more permanent medicine,” Kate said. “However, after doing my own research, I decided to not take the medicine and deal with the flare-ups as they occur,” she continued. To combat the symptoms, Kate modified her diet and began restorative yoga. She continues to drink large amounts of water for her dry mouth and uses prescription Restasis to provide moisture to her dry eyes.
Throughout his career, (Jeff) Sauter has seen the healing effects of water assist people that experience a variety of conditions, including: arthritis, Fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy, obesity, Parkinson’s, and many others.
To aid in the treatment of her joint pain, Gilboy has utilized water exercise and its healing powers. “I first experienced water for therapy when I lived in southern Wisconsin, as there was a wellness center in the city where I lived,” Gilboy explained. While she didn’t use the pool with the assistance of a physical therapist, Gilboy used it daily on her own. “The benefit really was the warm temperature, as I find it easier to move and stretch in the water,” she commented.
After Gilboy moved to the Chippewa Valley, she experienced a bad flare-up of Sjogren’s symptoms in April 2011. Gilboy decided to search the Internet for water therapy in the Eau Claire area. Fortunately, she found Dove Healthcare-South and its healing pool. “The facility is perfect for me because there are no stairs to get into and out of the pool; a platform lowers and raises the person,” Gilboy explained. When she attended the center, Gilboy was fortunate to work with Aquatics Director, Jeff Sauter. “We were able to help Kate alleviate some of her symptoms by addressing her stated concerns and utilizing the warm water therapeutic environment available at Dove Healthcare-South,” Sauter explained. Throughout his career, Sauter has seen the healing effects of water assist people that experience a variety of conditions, including: arthritis, Fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy, obesity, Parkinson’s, and many others. “I believe water exercise is becoming more mainstream with the aging population, for those with chronic conditions, and for others that have just not found an exercise modality that they enjoy,” Sauter explained.
Because the buoyancy of water creates a reduction of gravitational forces, it makes exercise easier in the water than on land; it provides a comfort unmatched by land-based exercises. “Water provides a high level of comfort and results that seem effortless, which sometimes works in favor of those that just don’t like to exercise,” Sauter said. While Sauter has been in the health and wellness industry for over 30 years, he has always ensured that water is a component of his tenure. “The use of water has just gotten to be more exclusive to my current practice due to the belief I have in the power of water and its healing therapeutic properties,” Sauter added.
Gilboy agrees with the healing nature of the water exercises she has experienced. “The water exercise allows me to move in an easier way when I am sore. Plus, the water is relaxing, calming, and acts as a stress reliever,” Gilboy added.
Because the water exercises and treatments do assist with Gilboy’s flare-ups; after much continued thought, she still chooses not to take medication. “It isn’t something that I take lightly, as my doctors continue to encourage me to be on medicine,” Gilboy explained. “I have decided that I would handle the pain as it comes, and most of the time, the pain is tolerable,” she continued.
Gilboy feels fortunate to have found Sauter and the aquatic exercises that aid in her health improvement. And, it is evident that Sauter promotes water exercise as a healing way to treat a variety of health ailments. As people seek alternative ways to care for their health, whether it be by avoiding prescription medications or through unique alternatives, water therapy and water exercise appears to be one “wave” that will continue well into the future.