Water Aerobics & Therapeutic Swimming

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Getting Started

Water aerobics are a great tool for managing Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. When I began water fitness, my shoulder dislocations were totally out of control and simply getting in the water to  move around was all I could do. Once I was functional enough to began actual exercise, I got a prescription from my doctor for aquatic therapy.  If you have no experience with water aerobics, starting with a physical therapist is very good idea.  Although the water reduces impact on the joints, it won’t give your nervous system the same type of feedback as regular exercise and you may actually be more prone to subluxations. A physical therapist will teach you how to protect your joints in the water and alert you to any type of water exercises you need to avoid.

The Benefits of Aquatic Exercise, from Kathleen Zonarich PT presented at the 2012 EDNF conference.

*click here to find a download for the full presentation- scroll all the way to the bottom*

Benifits of Aquatic Exercise



The change of force on my body helps decrease muscle spasms and keeps the joints mobilized. Of course this is also something to watch out for when you already have loose joints to began with! I recommend using extreme caution getting out of the pool and being extra careful in the hours following your swim. Especially if you’re new to swimming, I recommend going in the evening in case the muscles become too relaxed.

Guidelines & Contraindications for Aquatic Exercise, from Kathleen Zonarich PT presented at the 2012 EDNF conference.

Guidelines for EDS aquatic therapy

Contraindication for Aquatic Exercise

Tips & Tricks


For many of us this swimming is not a good exercise due to the repetitive stress it puts on the shoulders. If you’ve ever had any neck problems, you should also be careful about rotating too far while breathing between strokes.


Before you completely give up on swimming, make sure you’ve tried all the variations of swim strokes! The only safe swim stroke I’ve found is a modified version of breaststroke. This  stroke includes the front half of breaststroke with the back half of butterfly, otherwise known as dolphin kick. If breaststroke causes you pain in the knees or SI joint give the dolphin kick a try!

Sensory Issues

  • The water is too cold- most cities have therapy pools which are heated! you can also try using a wetsuit
  • Intolerance to wet hair- use a swim cap, there’s also no need to get your head under water, consider getting a hair cut
  • Intolerance to swim suits- if you have difficulty with elastic bands the struggle is real …keep searching to find a comfy suit, my favorite brand is NEXT Swimwear 
  • Learn tips for swimming with a sensory processing disorder from SensorySmartParent 

My Personal Water Aerobic Routine

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