Alternative Treatments: The Hot Tub
After a particularly stressful few weeks for both of us, Mike very sweetly booked us some time in a hot tub at Inman Oasis in Somerville. They’re super popular (for good reason) and since we aren’t great advance planners, we’ve never been before. It was about a million degrees (Fahrenheit) that day, so I guess there wasn’t an overwhelming demand for a dunk in hot water which worked out great for scheduling a last-minute appointment.
For some reason, hot tubs as pain relief never really crossed my mind. For the last 15 years I’ve taken all kinds of pills to reduce pain and inflammation but haven’t explored many alternatives, aside from one brief disastrous acupuncture session. That’s a highly entertaining story for another day. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, and prednisone have been my little helpers. There was a point when I was taking between 2 and 4 Advil a day for about a year until I weaned myself off of it. Luckily my weekly cocktail of methotrexate and Actemra keeps things mostly in check. But what else can I do for mini-flares and every day aches?
I know many people use alternative methods of pain relief. Massage. Acupuncture. Reflexology. Buckets of Biofreeze. But the hot tub was my first real foray into the world of what I call “all that stuff”. And of course, because my life is a comedy of errors, all did not go as planned.
The tubs at Inman Oasis are beautiful. We had booked a traditional wooden tub in a private room with an adjacent shower. They let us choose the music; I chose The Beatles because whale sounds are not really my thing. You can also bring your own music. They gave us cold water bottles and the shower was stocked with citrusy shampoo, conditioner, and soap. We settled in, nice and calm, ready for a rejuvenating experience.
I was in the water for all of 5 minutes before I started to feel nauseous.
(Just in case that alarms anyone, I do not have a heart condition. My cholesterol is a little high for someone my age and build due to Actemra, but not dangerously so and not enough to warrant medications. I do see a cardiologist once a year as a complement to my arthritis treatment. That way we make sure everything else functions in tip-top shape. So it is a not a heart thing. My best guess is anxiety. Heat and my anxiety are mortal enemies. Moving on!)
I spent the next 20 minutes in and out of the tub, while Mike anxiously looked on. I alternated between encouraging him to relax and not worry about me, and telling him I was going to throw up. I’m a terrible relaxation companion. I ended up out in the lobby where the lovely women at the desk gave me some water and an ice pack for my neck. Mike emerged about 5 minutes later, unable to let me sit in misery. As he paid, the woman at the desk said the same thing had happened to her the first time she went in a hot tub as well. So there may be hope for me yet, and I would like to believe there is because here’s the thing: my feet felt amazing afterwards. My ankles, which had been aching and complaining for weeks before, felt no pain. The twinges in my toes were gone, and the soreness on the tops of my feet had vanished.
Do I attribute this to the hot tub? You bet I do. According to this article from the Arthritis Foundation, warm water helps your joints by reducing the force of gravity on them and offering total support, decreasing swelling and inflammation, and improving circulation. I’ve been able to recreate the benefit I received from the hot tub by soaking my feet in hot water – without the nausea. It’s been nice to have an alternative to pills. I only wish I could extend it to the rest of my joints. I don’t have a bathtub so there isn’t an easy way for me to soak my shoulders, elbows, etc.
I plan to try hot tubs again, with some modifications like easing in bit by bit, and perhaps using a tub in a bigger room, or even outdoors for a little more air circulation. The tubs at Inman Oasis are more cozy and perhaps are better suited to a special occasion for some intimate and bonding relaxation. I will keep exploring other methods of pain relief. I’m already a big proponent of massage when I can get it. What are some of the methods you swear by? I’m open to any and all suggestions (even acupuncture).
Postscript: I really can not say enough good things about Inman Oasis. My nausea was a result of my weirdo body/mind, and they were very sweet about it. Lovely environment, lovely people. Mike has also had a massage there that he said was excellent.