I’m kind of addicted to swimming in the sea. This addiction started back in December, when the days got warm enough for hitting the beach, and has continued because I’m experiencing a lot of health benefits for my efforts. Not all that surprisingly, humans have been playing with the health benefits of the ocean for centuries and have even named the practise “Thalassotherapy”.
Thalassotherapy is the practise of using sea water and shore climate to treat health ailments. Finally, I understand why the grandmother in Roald Dahl’s The Witches was prescribed an ocean holiday to assist her health…this is actually a thing. A thing that has been going on for a long time and has even been marketed into overpriced spa treatments for rich people.
I always thought that going to the beach improved my mood because it was just a fun thing to do, but it turns out that there might be more to it than that. I mean, watching an episode of Portlandia is also a fun thing to do, but I’m yet to notice it actively lowering my pain levels.
Poking around the internet, I have learnt that there are a couple of science-type explanations for why going to the beach could be helping me to feel better. Personally, reading about this sort of stuff is just gravy, if something makes me feel better it makes me feel better. I’ve been at this chronic pain game long enough to know that the scientific method can’t explain or prove everything….yet.
So far, this is what internet reported science has had to say about why going to the beach is helpful:
Living with CRPS in all of my limbs makes exercising tricky. If my legs are flaring, I can’t handle anything that involves standing on them and that rules out most cardio. If my hands are flaring, I still experience increases in the pain from walking on my legs and I am also more likely to flare up in the lower regions if I’m already being pained by the upper regions.
Building any sort of muscular strength is a delicate balancing act, but is also a necessary part of managing chronic pain. A weak body hurts more and is more easily injured. This is why when one thing goes wrong in a CRPS effected body, it can very easily lead to another problem and another problem because of the difficulty in regaining strength after any sort of setback. When it happens, it’s kind of like getting stuck in a loop of weakness.
In the past, I’ve had some patchy success with undertaking hydrotherapy in an indoor pool. I found it easier to move without increasing pain whilst in the water and also enjoyed a lot of relief from the pain of gravity by using floatation devices. With regular visits, I was able to build up some core strength that helped to make other forms of exercise, like walking, more viable.
Unfortunately, my body really struggles to cope with a pool environment. Such places are ridiculously humid and the water and air reek with chemicals. Both of those factors are conducive to increasing my pain and tend to undo a lot of the progress that I make in the water, before I even get back to the car.
I felt better, straight away. I can’t think of any words that could possibly explain how amazing such an experience was after six years of CRPS. It was a little bit like those few moments during my 10 day ketamine infusion when I felt painlessness and vowed to never give up my fight, only without the preceding days of hallucinogenic torture or the disastrous consequences.
Once in the water, I was able to move around fairly freely and get into some of the exercises that I used to do in the hydrotherapy pool. Floating is a breeze in salt water and I was able to relax on my back and let the weightlessness and gentle swaying of the waves melt away my tension. The water was cool enough to bring about goosebumps, but not create a hindering chill.
Chronic pain turns a person’s body into a sort of prison cell. Any activities are only undertaken by following the rules of the warden (CRPS). Permanent physical limitations can stifle freedom like no other oppression that I have even known (I’m a white Australian, so you know, pretty lucky in that regard).
Feeling free is like feeling young again, feeling healthy. The best part is that this feeling stays with me throughout the rest of the day. The coolness of the water seems to penetrate my body and sit deeply enough that I actually continue to experience feeling better long after I have dried off.
Naturally, I have been returning to the beach as often as I can handle. I’m careful not to push my energy levels too far, I try not to stay out too long and I mostly tread water and float around, but just doing that has been enough to kickstart some healing.
It takes about 5-6 songs to drive to the beach from my house, so not all that far, but far enough to force me to pace out my visits and that’s probably a good thing. Without a distance buffer, I’d be in the water every day, which would either be awesome or just cause me to overexert myself. I’m only going to know which case is true after you buy me a beach house, or send me to a resort for a few weeks. So, you know, you should probably get on that as soon as possible. And thanks!
Love & Bobbing Around,