Monday, 19 August 2013

How to use walking in water to recover from ME

So finally, here is how to use water to help recover. My aunt had severe ME, and I think had to be carried into the water at the beginning, but she has put water down as the biggest contributor to her amazing recovery in only 2 years!!! The shortest I have ever heard of. I have worked via e-mail with her physio in South Africa and this is how she advised me:

I started by being in the learner pool (which is so much warmer) 3 times a week for 5 minutes only. It is important to have a day between paddles and not to swim. I simply walk I in the water up to shoulder height using my arms to part the water ahead of me. Like I said before when I first started it took a lot out of me, I had to be driven there, I felt very shivery when I got out and getting dressed felt like a huge mountain to climb. I think my aunt was so ill she was only in the water for 2 mins to begin with. So I did 5 mins Mon, Weds and Fri however ill I felt and after about four weeks I felt stable at that amount of time so then I increased it by only 2 minutes more. You do this every time, keep at the new time, keep being steady with it, allow yourself the day off to recover, keep to your fixed schedule the rest of the time and when you feel you are stabilising at that amount of time up it by 2 minutes. It is important not to push it, not to try and ramp it up too quickly, and if something goes wrong, you get an infection or over do it like me, then rein it back a bit by 2 or 4 mins depending on how ill you are. I have had to drop back down three times now - which is always very disappointing - but each time I have found it takes less time to get back to where I was.

When I got to 11 mins for the first time I suddenly realised I was feeling very much more robust. Unfortunately I got an infection and was very sad to drop back to 7 mins after having a couple of weeks off, but I got back to 11 mins in about a month, rather than the two it had taken me to get there. The exciting bit is finally getting to 15minutes as then you can start to swim a little. You swim for 2 mins, then walk for 3, swim for 2, walk for 3, swim for 2 and walk for 3.

It all sounds like graded exercise, but I have to say it is more than that. As I have said I wear a heart monitor in the water and as soon as I get in the water my heart rate starts to drop. Getting in the water feels really healing there is something lovely about it even when I was struggling either side of the getting in the pool. But recently where I pushed myself up the silly mountain and had just reached 15 mins and had to drop back to 13 mins, getting in the water just calms everything down, all the weird body symptoms, the autonomic nervous system stuff just seems to be soothed by being in the water. And this time it has only taken me 2 weeks to feel stable enough to get back to 15 mins and 2 min swims. When I think back to last December and how much better I am, how much more robust, I feel really hopeful that given another year or so I will get back on my feet properly. It's important to be realistic and take it steady. My aunt thinks the most important thing is to make steady progress and avoid crashes as they damage the body further. It is of course all about mental toughness - if only those idiots who think it's all in our heads would realise how tough you have to be mentally to live with this awful condition!

Where I lived before was too far from a pool for me to use even though my aunt told me it was the best thing I could do and I couldn't quite believe her, but here I am lucky to be a 10 min drive away and have a leisure centre where I have paid £150 for a years unlimited swimming, so I'm only paying £1 a swim in essence. It is the best bit of money I have chucked at this illness and believe me from mitochondria cell function tests to injecting myself with B12 and magnesium its the best £150 I have spent.

I urge anyone with ME, however ill, to try it. To beg someone to take you and stick to a tight schedule and try it. I know my aunt isn't the only person who has recovered this way, although she is the fastest the physio has known. If you want any advice let me know, and of course if you sign up to e-mail reminders you will automatically keep up with how my recovery is going!

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