Swimming is therapeutic for Multiple Sclerosis

Swimming is therapeutic for Multiple Sclerosis

I am always one to believe that everything happens for a reason.  Since this health challenge slapped me on the face, I’m constantly pondering what my lesson in this obstacle is.  There are many.

For sure I needed to slow down, and I admittedly am appreciating many small moments while I’ve been forced to spend so much time sitting.  Before this I often rushed through reading my kids to bed eager to get on with my evening, now I savor the fact that I can comfortably cuddle and read some well-written and beautiful stories.

Since being on the track team in high school, I’ve always needed some form of exercise.  Not as much for being skinny, as for mental clarity and calmness.  For years I have done yoga mixed with phases of spin, Zumba, elliptical, P90X and walking.

Although I received no restrictions from my doctor, it doesn’t seem high impact exercises would feel good on my body, as my legs and torso are still numb. My other muscles are over compensating often causing my knees, hips, back and even neck to be sore.

I knew swimming has many therapeutic qualities, but there are also many reasons I don’t enjoy swimming. I definitely do not adore putting on a bathing suit ever.  Despite all of this, I put on my bathing suit first thing in the morning and after dropping my boy at school, I headed to the Y where I enjoyed sweaty spin classes only a month earlier, and eased into their pool for the first time.

Swimming has many benefits for me as well as others suffering from MS or other limiting injuries and illnesses.

Balance: My right leg is worse than my left, which causes balance issues.  Tree pose on my right side is almost impossible.  The water creates an equilibrium where I feel balanced and easily glided through the water.

Low Impact: Easy on the body, but a full body workout.   Although I still felt the numbness in the water, I didn’t feel held back or less able due to the disease.

Temperature: Many people say the heat makes their MS worse.  I’ve found the cold affects me and makes my legs stiff.  Regardless, for those that suffer from the heat the water will cool them off and for me the water felt warming.

I channeled my inner Michael Phelps and got into a rhythm as I kicked and paddled back and forth through the water finding calm and peace.

The sad part was after about 25 lengths; I took my swimmers high to the stairs and stumbled my way to the locker room. My body resembled a wet noodle as I regained my footing and orientation.

My body felt very fatigued later in the day, which makes perfect sense as it has been a while since I’ve got my heart rate up and all these muscles moving.  I’m excited to have found a new, safe form of exercise and look forward to many more mornings in the pool.

Have you used swimming as therapy?


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