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4 Simple Morning Exercises for Those with Chronic Lyme Disease That Can Make You Feel Better
No sweat. No muscle gains. Just lymphatic movement.
Dr. Richard Horowitz, M.D., “Although we may address all of the other fifteen points on the MSIDS map and improve our health, without putting a proper exercise and progressive reconditioning program in place, those who have been chronically ill will have a much more difficult time maintaining their gains.” - Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease
Remember the warm up exercises and stretches you’d perform in the beginning of high school gym class (i.e., physical education) before your main class lesson in how to play volleyball?
Well, those warm up exercises and stretches may not have a made a noticeable difference in how you physically felt after you completed them, to your high school body, but those same warm up exercises and stretches can have a huge, and this time around, noticeable difference in how you feel. Get ready, because we’re going back to P.E.! And for those who were wondering, no, no whistles or megaphone will be used.
Move Your Body A Little and You May Actually Feel Better
You have chronic Lyme disease and possibly some, or many, of its associated conditions. You also have a body, and that body was made to move.
Now, it’s important to note, this is not some extensive workout routine cliche article telling you how to lose weight or be healthy -- doesn’t exist here. What this article aims to do is simply provide 4 basic, extremely low-impact exercises you can and should perform (within your limits) every morning you get out of bed, if you’re able to.
These 4 exercises are designed to be simple, fast -- less than 5 minutes of your time will be required to complete them all -- and low-impact enough to keep you wanting to to do them, but aggressive enough so that they may actually help you feel better.
And once you begin to do them for a few days, you’ll realize they may be making a difference in how you feel overall. You may actually even feel better or a slight improvement after doing these 4 exercises -- something that didn’t even seem feasible or make sense before you started them.
Why It’s Important For People With Chronic Lyme Disease To Move
Having chronic Lyme disease can definitely be debilitating enough to where you can’t even open your eyes in the morning, let alone get out of bed. And if you’ve ever attempting to exercise, especially rigorously with chronic Lyme disease, you know that it can potentially make you feel really bad afterwards, and possibly for the rest of the day or more. This is very discouraging, especially if you’re a person who used to routinely exercise or lift weights before chronic Lyme took hold.
There are so many studies and workout gurus explaining why you need to move your body, but we’re keeping it simple here. Our goal is to move the body in such a gentle, but demanding-enough way that it can actually help you feel physically better, and in turn, help progress your chronic Lyme treatment.
Chronic Lyme disease is a condition that can result in an abnormally large amount of toxins, waste, and undesirables due to the war-like environment inside the body. Lyme bacteria release endotoxins when they’re killed by antibiotics, antimicrobials, or the immune system, white blood cells die, constituents of prescription drugs, supplements, and herbs, all are in excess, but still need to be removed from the body.
While it’s important to support your body’s main detox organs so these waste products can be removed, you also have to support one of the channels the body has to get these waste products to the detox organs - the lymphatic system.
Lymph Drainage > Sweating or Building Muscle
The goal here is to not increase physical endurance, sweat, or build bigger muscles, but simply to move the lymphatic system - that’s it! So while after performing these exercises consistently for a couple of days, you may feel they’ve become too easy, and you’re right!
However, it’s absolutely important to remember that while our bodies may have adapted to the demand placed on them, and they likely will, this is all secondary, not important, and a bonus, if it happens. The main objective of this exercise and stretching routine is to just help move the lymph fluid in the body, which tends to become stagnant from a sedentary lifestyle caused by chronic Lyme.
Quickly, the lymphatic system is a second circulatory system, if you will, in your body, that, instead of blood, contains lymph fluid. Unlike the blood circulatory system, which has a heart pump to move the blood around the body, the lymphatic system relies on muscle contractions and breathing to move lymph fluid around.
The lymph fluid is collected from various parts of the body and contains waste products and toxins, which then travels through the lymphatic system, and is dumped into the bloodstream, where these toxins and undesirables will be processed for removal by the body’s detox organs (i.e., liver, kidney, etc).
The Perrin Technique and Other Lymphatic Support
While this exercise and stretching routine may be enough to move the lymph fluid for some, others may require additional lymphatic support. Certain herbs and supplements can help with lymphatic drainage, such as the herb Red Root (recommended by Stephen Buhner) or the homeopathic remedy Itires (used by Dr. Richard Horowitz, M.D.). You can also look into using a mini trampoline, which is touted for its amazing ability to drain the lymphatic system.
Additionally, the Perrin Technique is a series of refined lymph draining massage techniques, developed by U.K. physician Dr. Raymond Perrin, D.O., PhD., found to help some with CFS/ME feel better. By simply helping the body move semi-stagnant lymph fluid, toxins that have built up in the body are now able to leave, potentially helping those diagnosed with CFS/ME, feel better. CFS/ME and Lyme may be one of the same condition, but that’s a whole other discussion.
The 4 Simple Exercises to do every morning
Important: Never push yourself to perform any exercise or stretch that you can’t physically do (not what you don’t want to do). If performing an exercise or stretch doesn’t feel right, stop what you are doing. And as always, ask your Lyme doctor before you begin any type of exercise or stretching routine.
Point To Note: If you were an avid cardio person and/or weight lifter before Lyme, you know the urge to increase your workout time, reps, or weight when you feel your current workout routine becomes easy. You absolutely must throw this mentality out here, as it will only set you back. The secret to making gains while having chronic Lyme disease is starting out as slow as you need to, and not pushing yourself to go beyond what we’ve recommended.
Every morning when you get out of bed, even if the last thing you want to do is this exercise, do them! Start out slow by cutting the goal of each exercise by ½ or even a ¼ . Once you feel comfortable enough, you can increase, but never beyond the goal.
And of course, if you absolutely feel like you can’t do these exercises one morning, even if you really want to, don’t push yourself to! You can always pick up tomorrow, as a day of rest may actually do yourself more good in the long term. Creating more good days than bad is what we’re after here, and only you know how you’d respond to an exercise given how you feel:
- Arm Circles - Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart and extend your arms out as if you were an airplane. Begin moving them in a forward, circular motion, creating circles about a foot in diameter. Do this 25 times and then reverse the circle and do this for additional 25 times. Goal: 25 forward and 25 backward circles
- Standing Backstroke - For all you swimmers out there, keep your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Begin by moving one arm up and back as if you were swimming the backstroke, and in a fluid motion, do the same for the next arm. Repeat this for a total of 50 times. Goal: 50 backstrokes total
- Air Squats - For the weight lifters out there, we have your squats. Move your feet a bit further apart for stability. Now squat down and stick your butt out as if you were sitting on a chair, while keeping your head and chest up. You can stick your arms straight out. Your back should be curved in (concave), like a water slide. Once you squat down, push through your heels and squeeze your butt, all while keep your butt out, and head and chest up. Inhale on the way down, exhale on the way up. Goal: 20 air squats
- Leg Lifts - Lastly, for a little cardio, bring your legs back to roughly shoulder width. Lift one leg up as high as you can, as if you were in a marching band, drop it, and repeat the same for the other -- march. While lifting your legs, attempt to twist your waist a little for some added movement. Inhale for 2 leg lifts, exhale for the next 2. Goal: 50 leg lifts total
- Back stretch (BONUS) - With a nod to yoga, if you want, and if your back is feeling really tight on this particular morning, you can stretch the back out. Move your feet close together so there is about 2-3 inches between them. Fold your arms as if you were being stubborn or mad at someone. Slowly lean forward -- you can keep your legs straight or bend them slightly, if you choose -- and once you can’t go down anymore, hold it for about 10 seconds. While in this position, twist your upper body to the right and hold for 10 seconds, and do the same for the left. Now slowly begin to stand erect, one vertebrae at a time.
Once you’ve completed your 4 exercises, reflect on what you did and be proud of yourself that you made the effort to move your body a little bit this morning! Now go drink a big glass of water (8 ounces) to flush everything out that’s been moved around. You can also add the juice of 1 lemon, if you’d like.
- Zimmermann, Kim Ann. "Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions & Diseases." LiveScience. Purch, 11 Mar. 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.
- The Perrin Technique. Perf. Dr. Raymond Perrin, DO, PhD. YouTube. N.p., 12 Aug. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.
- "Spleen and Lymphatic System." KidsHealth. Ed. Yamini Durani. The Nemours Foundation, May 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.
- Buhner, Stephen H. "The Core Protocol and Extended Repertory." Healing Lyme: Natural Healing of Lyme Borreliosis and the Coinfections Chlamydia and Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis, 2nd Edition. Silver City: Raven, 2015. 233+. Print.
- Horowitz,, Dr. Richard, MD. "Lyme and Inflammation." Why Can't I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme and Chronic Disease. New York: St. Martin's, 2013. 198. Print.