Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Health, Physical Education, and Recreation


Eadric Bressel


Gait, pain, and self-efficacy alterations in osteoarthritis (OA) patients may be precursors for pathological alterations and are important variables to examine in an aquatic therapy study aimed at improving mobility. A greater understanding of these alterations will be useful for the treatment of OA and the prevention of OA progression. The purpose of this thesis was twofold: to review the effects of certain land and aquatic therapies on gait kinematics and mobility of people with osteoarthritis, and to examine the effects of short-term aquatic treadmill exercise on gait kinematics, perception of pain, and mobility in OA patients. A direct comparison of water versus land treadmill exercise was used to determine the acute effectiveness of aquatic therapy on gait kinematics, pain, and self-efficacy. Fourteen participants diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee performed three consecutive exercise sessions for each mode of exercise. Gait kinematics, pain, and self-efficacy were measured before and after each intervention. Angular velocity gain score during stance for left knee extension was significantly higher for aquatic treadmill exercise compared to land treadmill exercise by 38.1% (p = 0.004). Similarly, during swing, the gain scores for angular velocity were also greater for left knee internal rotation and extension by 65% and 20%, respectively (p = 0.004, p = 0.008). During stance, the joint angle gain score for left hip flexion was greater for land exercise by 7.23% (p = 0.007). Similarly, during swing, the angular velocity gain score for right hip extension was significantly greater for aquatic exercise by 28% (p = 0.01). Only the joint angle gain score for left ankle abduction during stance was significantly higher for land exercise by 4.72% (p = 0.003). No other joint angle gain scores for either stance or swing were significantly different for either aquatic or land treadmill exercise (p = 0.06-0.96). Perceived pain was 100% greater for land than aquatic treadmill exercise (p = 0.02) and self-efficacy gain scores were not different between conditions (p = 0.37). The present study demonstrated that an acute training period on an aquatic treadmill did influence joint angular velocity and arthritis-related joint pain. Although acute effects of training (i.e., pain, angular velocity) improve after aquatic rather than land training, it is unclear whether or not aquatic exercise is a better long-term alternative to land exercise, and further longitudinal research is needed to examine gait kinematic changes after an increased training period of aquatic exercise.


This work made publicly available electronically on August 2, 2010.