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How Swimming Can Help Relieve Your MS Symptoms

By Daryl H. Bryant (845 words)
Posted in Living with MS on February 18, 2015

There are (1) comments permalink

How Swimming Can Help Relieve Your MS Symptoms

Swimming is one of the most effective ways you can reduce the pain, stress, and discomfort of your Multiple Sclerosis symptoms, and you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to take advantage of the swimming pools. Many water aerobics routines do not even require you to dunk your head below water, let alone swim.

Simply moving your cardio and strength-building exercises to the shallow end of the swimming pool will reduce the pressure on your limbs, increase your range of motion, and help you regulate your body temperature. If you are able, swimming can help your MS symptoms in a myriad of ways, and learning how and why swimming can benefit you will help you find a routine that fits your body.

Buoyancy will increase your range of motion

When you move in the water, you’ll notice that you feel less pressure on your feet and muscles. You’ll feel lighter and you won’t move with the stiffness often caused by MS. This buoyancy in the water will make it easier for you to complete your cardiovascular workouts with little-to-no impact.

Amongst other ways to reduce your MS numbness in your arms and/or legs, you can also try swimming. While water won’t eliminate the numb sensations, your limbs will be more responsive in the lightness of the water. If you are suffering from numbness or sensitivity, especially in your feet and legs, try swimming laps. This workout will allow you to reap all the benefits of running without the physical stress and pain on your body.

Water’s hydrostatic pressure will help you stand

Swimming and water aerobics will strengthen your balance, both in the water and outside. As the water gets deeper, the water pressure increases, creating a state of compression around your body that will help you stay balanced without support. If you don’t know how to swim or aren’t particularly keen on swimming laps, simply walking back and forth along the length of the pool will give you a great workout.

Try taking long, wide strides up and down the pool, making sure to step firmly down with your whole foot. Do not walk on the tips of your toes or your heels, although that may seem easier, because the purpose of this exercise is to rebuild your muscle memory. Strengthening your muscles in this way will help your body remember how to balance outside of the water.

Water temperature can relieve spastic symptoms

If you suffer from symptoms that flare-up after temperature changes, especially heat-related symptoms, swimming will help keep you cool. Regular exercise routines will increase your body temperature, which can make symptoms worse, and it can be hard to exercise while wearing cold packs. Swimming in pools where water temperatures are regulated will give you the opportunity to pursue your exercise agenda without having to worry about symptom outbreaks.

The ideal temperature you want is a pool between 81-83 degrees, so call your local recreational center ahead of time to find out the temperature. Outdoor pools can run hot, especially during the summer time, and professional training pools often run cold, so bear this in mind as you research your local swimming holes. Luckily, many indoor pools at YMCAs and YWCAs are regulated between 75-85 degrees for ideal comfort so do not be discouraged if it takes you awhile to find a conveniently temped pool.

Swimming help controls breathing and meditation.

Often, your MS may require you to take on spiritual and mental exercises just as much as physical. In the swimming pool, you can take advantage of the quiet and alone time to meditate and relax. The buoyancy will help you to float, and you can employ Ai Chi exercises to relax and stretch. Ai Chi is a water therapy routine from Japan that focuses on regulated breathing techniques combined with long, broad swimming strokes that stretch your muscles, increase your range of motion, and help you find your center and relax your mind as well as your body.

Try standing in the shallow end of the pool with your feet aligned with your shoulders. Take a deep breath and step to the right with your right leg while reaching out with your left arm. Exhale, step back and pull the water back toward you with your arm, then repeat with the opposite side. Finish your aerobics routine with relaxing moves such as this one and you will notice an increase in your mobility and your balance, as well as a calm in your spirit.


Even if you don’t know how to swim or have limited mobility, swimming is still an exercise option for you. Many local recreation centers offer water aerobics classes, including Ai Chi, that cater specifically to patients with MS, and even more have ramps and lifts to help you get in and out of the water with ease.

Do not be afraid to call ahead and ask what is available at each swimming center as there are many resources at your disposal that you may not know of until you ask. If you don’t know where to start, find a swimming instructor and start asking questions.  

Comments (1)

Twinoakmom posted on: February 19, 2015

I couldn't agree more.

For the past two years I've doing Water Aerobics two to three times a week. I feel great when I'm finished for the rest of the day.

If I have to miss a few classes I feel lost.

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