Water is one of those debatable topics that seems to arise regularly. Can hot water help nerves? Or is it cold water that can help ease some of the pain? The jury is out there on this one.
HNPP and other hereditary neuropathic conditions can affect sensory and autonomic nerves (sensory neuropathies), or sensory and motor nerves (sensory and motor neuropathies). Sensory nerves carry sensory information – about such things as pain, temperature, and vibration – to the brain.
When the sensory and autonomic nerves are affected, the ability to feel pain and changes in temperature is impaired more than the ability to sense vibration and position (knowing where the arms and legs are). The hands and feet are affected most. Hence the temperature of water that you may need can depend on how the area affected is currently feeling.
According to LtCol Eugene B Richardson, who authors the Neuropathy Journal site, some patients have found that putting the affected area in cool tap water, not freezing, for 15 minutes before bed may calm the damaged nerves. Other patients have found that warm water, NOT hot, helps rather than the cold water. These suggestions featured in Peripheral Neuropathy in the American Academy of Neurology but Dr. Norman Latov and in You Can Cope With Neuropathy by Mims Cushing.
The bottomline is that it really depends on the individual. And the main thing is that it has to work for you. However, neurotherapists suggest you should always spend more time soaking in warm water than cool water.
But why is water important for HNPP’ers?
For people suffering from neuropathy, performing exercises is just not possible due to the severe nerve pain. Few low impact exercises can help control or reduce the symptoms of neuropathy. Though not all exercises will work for everyone, but there are some water exercises that can be of great benefit to people suffering from neuropathy.
Disclaimer: Please ask your GP or medical practitioner before attempting any exercise included on this website.
Julie O’Connor, Aquatic Specialist, who deals with neuropathic patients, told a 2016 conference for Neuropathy Alliance of Texas, that you get 17 times the resistance of being in the water than on land.
Why choose water exercise?
- Improve muscle strength
- Increased circulation and oxygen around the body through the blood – it is said that nerves regenerate better if there is more oxygen in the blood
- Improve coordination
- Improve range of motion
- Decrease pain
- Decrease weight bearing on joints
- Improving balance prevents falls
- Social interaction
- Combat depression
Neuropathy and exercise
- Safety first – safety on the deck of the pool is important, as tiles can be slippery, and you may have to consider how to get in and out of the pool. Aqua pool shoes can help for those with neuropathy in the feet. Keep a bottle of water, you’re still sweating!
- Do what you enjoy – when you stop moving, your body starts rebelling. When you move, you bring oxygen to the tissue, staving off the initial neuropathy
- Listen to your body – if it hurts, don’t do it, however, generally water doesn’t have a massive impact on your body.
- Two hour rule – for any exercise that you’re doing, if you’re sore in your joints, or you’re feeling worsening fatigue in your nerves then you’ve done too much. Make sure you’re doing the exercises properly.
- Move it or lose it – you’re likely to gain more issues if you don’t move at all.
Types of aquatic exercise
- Shallow end – Using different equipment or even just doing poses with correct posture.
- Deep (non-weight bearing)
- Training for specific goals such as rehabilitation, weight loss, balance, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, pain management
- Swimming – sometimes one-on-one can help at the beginning for those not ready for a group class. You may even not even need to swim but do easy positions instead.
- Ai chi – Tai Chi in water
- Water strolling – In water that is about abdomen high, stroll over the pool swinging your arms as you do when strolling ashore. Abstain from strolling on your tiptoes, and hold your back straight. Fix your abs to abstain from inclining too far forward or to the side.
- Hydrotherapy – Alternating between hot and cold water helps expand and constrict the blood vessels – forcing the blood to move through the vessels to other areas in the body. In addition to improving circulation – the warm water releases pain-relieving endorphins that help block pain. The warm water also helps the body to relax, thereby reducing the stress and anxiety that can aggravate your symptoms.
It may or may not work for everyone, but personally, it’s great just being able to move without cramps for a change, and it’s important to be out and about to avoid isolation.
Will you take the plunge?