When you live with chronic pain, exercising and movement can feel like a minefield sometimes. Health professionals tell us movement is good for us, but many of us report that exercise can make things worse sometimes. I very much found myself sitting in that boat until I found the right kind of movement for me, swimming. For years I truly didn’t think that exercise could help me in any way, when in fact I just hadn’t found the right fit for me and my body yet. When I started swimming, it only took a few months for me to feel the benefit.
As I write this I’m about to go swimming for the first time in 2 years, Covid-19 and heart surgery have kept me out of the pool, but today I go back. It’s during this time away that I’ve truly discovered how much swimming was helping me. Since I stopped I’ve lost muscle tone, experienced more joint pain, particularly in my replaced hip, and my mental health has suffered, which in term makes coping with pain more challenging. I’d never realised how much those couple of hours in a pool each week were helping me.
Swimming is a low impact sport that takes the pressure off of your joints, making it particularly excellent for those living with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis and connective tissue disorders. It’s also a great way to slowly build up muscle through a low stress activity. It’s a form of exercise that you can very much take at your own pace. If I need a break during the middle of a session then I’ll often hold on to the side and work on just kicking my legs, to keep my body moving. There’s also several different swimming strokes to choose from, so you can tailor it around your body and pain.
One mistake that I’ve made previously, and will be rectifying now, is that I used to swim once a week for an hour. Swimming for that long would absolutely exhaust me the next day, and it also meant that often I couldn’t fit in a second session in the same week. As I start to go back my plan now is to start with 30 minute sessions twice a week. Little and often is the way ahead!
For me, I find swimming so freeing. Being in the water without having to worry about pain stopping me is a wonderful feeling! It also massively helps my mental health, being in a swimming pool is so all encompassing that I don’t have a moment to think about any of my usual worries and stresses. I can forget everything whilst I'm there! Looking after my mental health makes looking after my physical health so much easier, supporting one always supports the other.
And most importantly, swimming is fun! We’re far more likely to participate in movement or exercise if we actually enjoy what we’re doing!
If you’re struggling to find a form of movement that suits you, then why not give swimming a try? Talk to our team of health professionals today to create a chronic pain plan that is unique and personal to you.