Water as Cure for Arthritis Pains : Pain-Free Arthritis by Dvera Berson with Sander Roy (S & J Books, P.O. Box 31, Gravesend Station, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11223: $16.95 postpaid)

When she reached her mid-60s, Berson had just about given up hope of a normal life. For years, she had struggled with crippling osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Her classic symptoms, caused by inflammation of the joints, were "excruciating pains in my neck, back, hands and lower body." Yes, she had "doctored" a lot and tried traditional medical treatment: eight Bufferins a day, orthopedic surgery, traction, even shots of cortisone.

By chance, while vacationing in Florida, Berson began exercising in a large swimming pool. Slowly, she devised a series of hydrotherapeutic techniques that changed her from a semi-invalid into a tolerably active woman.

Her "programme," forming the heart of this resourceful book, involves relaxing, stretching and strengthening muscles in a pool of about 80-85 degrees. Though Berson typically covers many laps during her sessions, she floats rather than swims. Photos make her regimen look balletic, but she makes it clear that moving painful joints is never easy.

Among specific suggestions for arthritis sufferers are reassessing prescribed drugs and exercise. An expensive club membership isn't necessary; to try hydrotherapy on your own, you might contact your local YMCA. The book must be ordered direct from the publisher. Also queries about a videotape of the exercises should be sent to the publisher.

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