Arthritis and waterbeds

Arthritis and flotation systems

Basic Statisitcs
Arthritis is one of the oldest diseases known to man. It can and does occur at all ages from infancy to late adulthood. If you live long enough, you will develop some form of arthritis. Medical studies show that 97% of all individuals over 50 have some arthritic condition that will show up on x-ray films.
Today there are approximately 2,000,000 arthritics in Australia who require medical care. Most doctors classify arthritis as the nation’s number one crippling disease.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is basically an inflammation of a joint which is associated with pain and immobility. However, there are many different conditions and classifications of arthritis. We will review a few common forms:
rheumatoidRheumatoid Arthritis
This is the most common form and can be the most serious. It is a chronic inflammation of one of the major joints of the body. It tends to flare up and unpredictably subside.

osteoarthritisOsteoarthritisA degenerating joint disease which is a wear-and-tear disease. It usually comes with getting older and affects the cartilage and bone at joint sites. This form is usually mild; not generally inflammatory. An estimated 1 million people in Australia have osteroarthritis serious enough to cause pain and warrant medical attention.

ankylosingAnkylosing Spondylitis:
Is a chronic progressive form of an inflammatory arthritis of the spine. It usually begins in the teens or early twenties.

Usually affects one joint at a time. It can attach and inflame any of the joints especially the big toe. Most victims are men. This form of arthritis can be very painful. It is usually treated with special diet and a lifetime of drugs.

Why use Waterbeds?

When joints are affected, they are swollen and painful. They must be protected from additional stresses and strains.

Incorrect posture, whether standing or lying down, can place an additional strain on arthritic joints. It is important to protect the affected joints against abnormal muscular spasms and contractures which can cause deformities

standard_mattresswaterbedThis support allows the blood to flow freely to all parts of the body. This boost to circulation is further enhanced by the warmth from heated flotation systems.

Concepts in treatment

There are no cures but treatment is long and a total commitment is needed to prevent deformities and crippling results. A full treatment program may be:

  • Anti-inflammatory Drugs
  • Rest programs
  • Mild excercise
  • Heat
  • Ultrasonic therapy
  • Posture rules
  • Working, walking aide
  • Diet
  • Surgery

Most treatment programs are carried out at home. A few patients may require hospitalization.

Rest and Exercise

The doctor and patient will try to find a balanced mixture of rest and excercise in the acute phase. More rest is required in the chronic and remission phase (when it seems to go away). More excercise is needed in the chronic phase to maintain more joint movement , strengthen muscles and keep joints in proper function.
Sleeping in the right bed helps subdue the inflammation. Improper sleep can lead to uncomfortable stiffening of diseased joints.

Arthritis and waterbeds
Medical studies have shown that the principle of waterbeds – equal distribution of body weight in a controlled volume of water – will benefit most arthritics. The even distribution of the patient’s weight will reduce pressure on the major joints that are inflammed of affected by different forms of arthritis.

Heat from waterbeds will aid in proper blood circulation this enhancing the healing process and reducing pain. The standard mattress will further reduce body heat. Most arthritics suffer the most in early mornings due to several factors: improper sleep supports, immobility and the shutdown of hormones which usually reduce inflammation.


Waterbeds and backs

back Approximateluy 400,000 Australians are out of work each day because of back pain. It affects all adults and can lead to very serious problems

Q. What are the causes of backaches ?

A. Backaches are usually classified into two categories

  1. Acute
    Due mainly to recent muscle strain, fractures or infection. Today acute backache is a common problem with “weekend atheletes” “do-it-yourselfers.”
  2. Chronic
    More complex and is usually associated with conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, spinal curvature, disc problems, or loss of bone minerals. Other factors such as extreme overweight, poor posture, emotional stress and depression may initiate back pain or aggravate an existing condition.

There are probably as many method for treating backaches as there are causes. Doctors will try to remove the cause of the pain as a first step in treatment. For example, losing weight, correcting posture, or special exercises many reduce musculature stress. Strengthening others back supporting muscles can also reduce backaches.
In some cases the work of a skillful physical therapist of chiropractor may be needed. Some therapists will resort to heat treatments, massages, tractions, or other devices for alleviating the pain. Others use analgesics, muscle relaxants or tranquilizers.
However, most specialists agree that the number one form of treatment consists of rest, proper diet and sleep in a comfortable position. This is baseline therapy to which other treatment can be added.


A very old and effective means of relaxing muscles, relieving pain and soreness in backaches. Many doctors may prescribe hot baths or heating pad. Hospitals and clincs often have a variety of special equipment for hot treatments. [Hydrotherapy, hot packs, etc.]

Why use a waterbed?

A waterbed can aid in the treatment of backache by enabling the backache sufferer to sleep in a more comfortable and beneficial position. A unique distribution of support for the body assures that all parts of the body are evenly supported, and that the body weight is equally distributed. Flotation systems remove pressure from the spine and allow relaxation of the spinal musculature. Doctors have found that the addition of heat speeds up the relaxation process and increases circulation to rejuvenate problem areas.
Many hospitals and nursing homes are using heated waterbeds for disabled and chronically ill patients, who are confined to bed because of surgery, burns, stroke, and back problems. All derive benefits from using heated beds.


Bedsores and waterbeds

What Causes Bedsores ?

When a person is confined to a bed or wheelchair for a long period of time,

extra pressure is exerted on certain parts of the body. Sitting involves mainly the buttocks while reclining also includes the shoulder blades, ‘elbows, leg calves, and heels. At these “pressure points” the tissue is pressed between the hard underlying bone and the surface of the bed. The blood vessels in this tissue cells. If this pressure is prolonged, the cells, deprived of their vital blood supply, begin to die, causing a “decubitus ulcer” or bedsore.

Normally a person shifts his position often enough to relieve these pressure points and maintain proper blood flow. However, people that are confined to a bed or wheelchair due to chronic illness have constant pressure exerted at these points, causing ulcers. These ulcers are difficult and expensive to treat and can sometimes even result in death.


Treatment and prevention of ulcers depends upon reducing the pressure of these critical parts of the body. Methods such as use or air, silicone, and foam rubber mattresses, regular turning of patients, and surgical closure have been tried with much expense and difficulty, in attaining success. A satisfactory method of treatment and prevention is now avaliable through the use of a water-filled flotation mattress.

Common Patients

Any patient who is immobilized due to some illness such as spinal cord injuries, coma, hip fractures, diseases of the circulatory system, cancer or any medical problem which requires prolonged bed time, is susceptible to bed sores.
The most common sites involve the sacrum, the shins, elbows, heels, rib cage, both sides of the ankle joints and shoulder blades.

The incidence of bed sores in chronic illness varies from 10 – 30%. However, in the older population, late 60’s to early 70’s, it is a high as 60%

Patient Benefits

Through the use of a flotation system, a person can prevent the formation of decubitus ulcers. Patients who have already formed ulcers can expect more rapid healing when switched to a flotation mattress. This healing may be up to three times faster than without the use of the flotation surface.
The patient will also have the added benefits of the improvement in sleep and general circulation.
The Journal of Amercian Medical Association reports on a study done at the Easter seal Rehabilitation Centre of Eastern Fairfax County in Bridgeport that, five hundred patients slept on flotation mattreses over a three year period, and “not one developed an ulcer.” Furthermore, ulcers already present in some patients healed more rapidly than expected.
A clinical trial conducted at the Jersey City Medical Centre as published in the American Family Physician, placed 48 patients on hospital flotation mattresses. Of the 24 patients who already had ulcers, 71% were completely healed after three weeks. None of the other 24 patients developed ulcers even after four weeks..
In Harlem Hospital centre, New York, 10 patients of which only one was ulcer free, were placed on flotation mattreresses. The American Journal of Nursing reports that “after at least one week all ulcers showed signs of healing. No new lesions were observed in any patient while on the water mattress.”

Why use a Waterbed?

A waterbed can aid in the treatment of backache by enabling the backache sufferer to sleep in a more confortable and beneficial position. A unique distribution of support for the body assures that all parts of the body are evenly supported, and that the body weight is equally distributed. Flotation systems remove pressure from the spine and allow relaxation of the spinal musculature. Doctors have found that the addition of heat speeds up the relaxation process and increases circulation to rejuvenate problem areas.


Many hospitals and nursing homes are using heated waterbeds for disabled and chronically ill patients, who are confined to bed because of surgery, burns, stroke, and back problems. All derive benefits from using heated beds.



Insomnia and waterbeds

Sleeping Disturbances

Between the ages of 20 and 60 you are likely to spend more than 15 full years in bed. In a 50 year span, you can be expected to fall asleep almost twenty thousand sepearate times.

We all know that sleep is essential to maintain good health and enhance the quality of life. It is basic medical knowledge that:

  • the nervous system cannot function indefinitely without sleep.
  • The quality of sleep can be measured and described by bodily functions.
  • many known disorders of sleep can be corrected with proper medication, changes in lifestyle or sleeping habits.
  • A “good sleep” usually results in muscle relaxation by decreasing metabolic activity and enhancing recovery from muscle fatigue.
  • During sleep, changes occur in the position and the size of the eyes. They roll from time to time, but are usually positioned in the centre.
  • Dreaming is associated with rapid (vertical and horizontal) eye movements (REM).
On an average, body tempreature will be lowest in the early morning hours, approximately 0.5° F.
Periodic changes in rate, depth and form of breating will occur with failing asleep. The character and rate of breating is slower and more shallow.
The heart rate is reduced. Studies show rate changes of 10 to 30 beats per minute is not unusual. Blood pressure is reduced as well.
Digestion Our evening meal continues to be digested while we sleep. This explains why ulcer patients still suffer while sleeping.

A good night’s sleep is essential to good health. Our body functions and chemical changes are generally predictable and profound. Sleeping is a shutting down of the nervous system reflected in the relaxation of voluntary muscles.
Biologically, sleep is absolutely essential to normal health. Experimental animals deprived of sleep will die within a few days regardless of how well they are fed, watered of houses. You owe it to yourself to do as much as possible to secure a good nigh’s sleep.

Controlling or enforcing sleep.

Chemicals that produce sleep are classifield into several categories:

  • Sedatives – Dampen the brain activity to allow natural sleep centres to take over.
  • Hypnotics – Work on the natural sleep centre.
  • Tranquilizers – Reduce anxiety and tension and also act as muscle relaxants.
  • Antihistamines – Usually cause drowsiness. Some do not require a doctor’s prescription.
How many hours do I need?

The general statistical range of normal sleep is from six to eight hours. This will vary in some individuals. Women generally sleep longer than men.

Sleep Disturbances

Approximately 30% of a normal population sample will have some form of sleep disturbances; trouble falling falling asleep, waking up during the night or early awakening.

The Insomniacs

Despite all the natural laws of sleep, many people find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep. In Australia, approximately 1 – 2 million people have sleep problems. The steady shift away from manual labour removed much of the natural muscle fatique that induces sleep.
Temporary insomnia is usually characterized by a high level of anxiety and physiological arousal. This is usually a carry-over from a busy day, acute problems, frustrations, anger, hostility of the working of a “chattering mind”. This form of insomnia is usually temporary. As the psychological problem is solved, the sleep pattern will change.
However, there are individuals who have abnormal sleep patterns that will take years to improve. The heated waterbed should be considered one of many factors that can minimize the problem. It certainly can help in a total relaxation program. Medical studies have shown tha heated waterbeds have played an important role both in accelerating and facilitating better sleep patterns. Many patients showed improvements in ease of falling asleep, stabilizing the sleep onset, increasing the total sleep time and reduced night awakenings.

Why Waterbeds?

The medical community has found that heated waterbeds can have a profound affect on inducing a good night’s sleep. The soothing warmth and even support of tired muscles is definitely therapeutic. As you now know, the body temperature is reduced at sleep. Using a standard mattress without heat can further reduce body temperature. Heating blankets are insufficient. Unlike heated waterbeds they provide heat on top of the body.


Many hospitals and nursing homes are using heated waterbeds for disabled and chronically ill patients. Patients who are confined to bed because of surgery, burns, stroke, even premature babies all derive benefits from using heated beds.



Medicine and waterbeds

Waterbeds and Medicine

A patient confined to a bed or wheelchair for long periods of time could be suffering from a neurological, medical, orthopedic or congenital illness. The illness itself presents certain problems but being bedridden on a standard mattress can complicate it and cause secondary medcical conditions. Metabolic functions, circulatory systems, urinary tract functions, sleep patterns, body temperature, blood chemistry, all are affected by lying in bed for great lengths of time. Therefore, selecting the right mattress is important in alleviating or preventing complications. The current medical literature indicates that utilizing controlled heated waterbeds in hospitals and nursing home can benefit many bedridden patients. These benefits can also be derived at home by anyone with a chronic illness. The major problem with immobilized patients who require longg term care is the development of bed sores (decubitus ulcers). A recent survey of chronic care facilities revealed that 11-33 percent of the patients had bed sores.. Treatment is expensive and difficult, and can more then double the duration of the average patient’s recovery period. Bed sores or decubitus ulcers are causes primarily by pressure on the tissue between the bony prominences of the body and the supportive surface. This pressure constricts the blood vessels, reducing the flow of blood to the tissue cells. If prolonged, the cells die, forming an ulcer. Mositure on susceptible areas, friction, malnutrition, anemia, and shearing force of sheets can also aggravate the condition. Heated waterbeds can alleviate or prevent many of the above problems. Construction of a waterbed can provide effective fluidic support to help increase circulation, relax muscles, induce sleep, reduce the incidence of pneumonia, and probably reduce the rehabilitation or convalescence period.

Who can benefit?

The principles of flotation have been documented to be especially helpful with the following conditions:

Premature infants and newborns:

Less pressure is exerted on delicate skin, less apnea spells (breathing cessations), take place, growth is enhanced, and a soothing effect is created by the warmth and motion that stimulates the womb.

Orthopedic problems:

The uniforms support of a waterbed removes excess pressure exerted on any one area of the body, in effect distributing the weight evenly over the entire surface. Thus, healing can take place in all affected areas.


Paraplegics, quadriplegics, people who have had strokes, spinal cord injuries, etc. Need less frequent changing of their position to prevent pressure sores.

Severe burns

The reduced pressure on the skin allows more rapid healing with less discomfort and may decrease the need for medication.

Trauma, auto accidents:

Aids in positioning and handling of the patient with severe or multiple injuries. It will help nurses in caring for these patients, conserving energy in rotating the patient and simplifying the changes of dressings.

Plastic surgery

Enhances healing of donor sites of major skin grafts. Waterbeds can make these patients more comfortable during the postoperative phase when there is fear and restriction of movement.

General Surgery

Post-hysterectomy, hermorhoidectomy, removal of kidney stones, colostomy, ligation or stripping of varicose veins all have uncomfortable recovery periods. The principles of the waterbed systems can benefits these patients.

Cardiac rehabilitation

Superior comfort is provided in the post operative phase of by-pass and open heart surgery patients. It is during this phase that the patient must lie on his back because the sternum, which as completely opened for the by-pass surgery, is going through the initial healing period.


The even support eliminates pressure on any part of the skeletal system, while the heat increases circulation and soothes painful joints. Arthritic patients on heated waterbeds have demonstrated less “early morning stiffness.”

Cystic fibrosis

The increases motion and improvement in circulation helps loosen and drain the continuous mucous build-up in the lungs.


The flexible support prevents the enlarged head from extending too far forward, thereby removing the extra strain on the neck.

Cerebral paisy

The motion and warmth relaxes and soothes the patient thereby reducing their spasticity and exaggerated muscle tone, and increasing rest and sleep.

Wheelchair patients

Many studies with patients who must use wheelchairs indicate that water flotation units decreased skin tempreture and may be helpful in preventing skin problems (e.g. ducubitus ulcers). Waterbeds have become an essential therapeutic fixture inn benefitting many patients with different medical problems.