Five Ways Pilates Can Help You Heal From Lyme Disease

Please Note: this article first appeared on ProHealth on March 22, 2016

It’s no secret to those who know me that I love Pilates. In fact, I’ve written about it a few times in the past (and probably will again) Pilates is a unique system of exercises, created by Joseph Pilates, designed to enhance strength, flexibility, posture, balance and to foster a connection between the mind and the body. 

In this article, I share with you some of my journey toward wellness, and ways in which Pilates is a useful, therapeutic tool to help you on your road to recovery.

The word “challenging” does not even begin to describe the starting point of my health struggles. For years, I battled an ever-growing list of strange symptoms until a doctor diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2010. Despite doing everything right; all that my doctor told me to do, I became more frail by the day, as weight inexplicably dropped from my 5-foot 6-inch frame.

Soon after my diagnosis, a series of soul-crushing events occurred; I lost my job, my car, most of my friends, my ability to sleep, financial stability, and my physical strength. During the next three years, I spent 18 months bedridden, only able to get up for a few minutes each day.

Sadly, I began to believe that my chances for a better quality of life were quickly slipping away. In a last ditch effort to find some help, I saw yet another doctor. He carefully combed through my medical history as my spent form draped over the chair across from him. When he lifted his head from his desk, he calmly said, “I think you have Lyme disease.”

Though armed with a new diagnosis and a heap of information, an entire year passed before my weak body was able to tolerate any treatment. In October 2013, a nurse practitioner created a gentle protocol for me that paved the way for healing to finally begin. I had an enormous uphill battle in front of me, but I was ultimately glad to be moving forward.

Along with my medical treatment, I promised myself that I would faithfully integrate Pilates into my protocol. Initially, it was a monumental task due to the level of physical decline I experienced from years of being homebound and incapacitated. However, I persevered, and stuck to my decision to make movement-based, exercise therapy a priority. Pilates has been a crucial part of my rehabilitation as it has safely allowed me to explore my current relationship with my body, my strength, and limitations, as I progress toward restoring my health.

I believe that nearly everyone–yes, both males and females–battling Lyme disease can benefit from incorporating the Pilates method into their treatment regime. Here are five ways Pilates can help you heal from Lyme disease.

1. Pilates reconnects your mind and your body.

Chronic Lyme disease can make you feel as though your body has betrayed you, and that you have no control over what’s happening to you. In contrast, a consistent Pilates practice reinforces the connection between the mind and the body and allows you to see that although many things may not be in your control, you still have the power to make specific changes to movements in a manner that feels best to you. When you focus your attention on the muscle groups working order soma overnight delivery during an exercise, you become acutely aware of the slight adjustments each muscle is making to rebuild your body.

Understanding that your mind and body work together to develop a stronger you is a very encouraging thought.

2. Pilates balances your body.

If you’ve experienced prolonged periods of inactivity or bed rest, you’ve probably noticed an increase in muscle weakness, tightness, and perhaps, even an increase in pain. These are the results of a body that has become imbalanced and deconditioned. With an emphasis on strength, flexibility, stability and mobility, Pilates provides a balanced workout for you. With each session, you will slowly notice an increase in muscle tone and joint range of motion.

3. Pilates reduces restrictions and poor movement patterns.

As I mentioned earlier, stress, pain and lack of movement take their toll on you. Your body adapts in the best way it knows how—by overcompensating in some areas and under compensating in others. These types of maladaptive patterns lead to muscle misalignment. Fortunately, Pilates allows you a chance to release restrictions throughout your tissues, adjust poor movement patterns, and improve your postural alignment. As renowned Pilates instructor Alycea Ungaro explains:

“As you exercise, you must always be aware of your alignment. Your workout is an opportunity to self-correct your misalignments. By learning to strengthen your weaknesses and correct your poor habits, you can restore optimal alignment to your body.”

As you engage the right muscles needed for each exercise, you will discover you can let go of excess tension and effort. Soon, you will see the advantages of new, more efficient movement in your body.

4. Pilates develops a strong core.

The core (AKA the “powerhouse”) is made up of the muscles in your abdomen, low back, hips, and gluteal area. Your core is always on duty; in fact, it’s constantly working to provide support and stability to your spine. When you’re sedentary for an extended length of time, your core begins to weaken, which decreases your ability to move efficiently.

The source of energy and the starting point for all exercises in the Pilates repertoire is your core group of muscles. As you strengthen this area, your balance will improve, and your movements will require less energy. You will sit and stand with better posture and more comfort.

5. Pilates adapts to your current level of fitness.

When traditional exercise programs often deplete you of energy, Pilates can be customized to suit your current fitness level. In my early days of recovery, I dealt with severe orthostatic intolerance problems and relentless fatigue that only allowed me to practice Pilates in a supine position. Thankfully, there are hundreds of exercises and variations that can be done lying down, so I never lacked options.

Similarly, you too may deal with severe fatigue, pain, or other concerns making most forms of exercise impossible to do. In such circumstances, Pilates can be used as a restorative tool to gently rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

If you are considering incorporating Pilates into your pursuit of wellness, I suggest that you invest in at least a few sessions to learn the foundational principles of the method before undertaking a personal practice. With a solid list of benefits, Pilates truly is a fitness solution for those of us with chronic Lyme disease.

References:

Ungaro, A. (2011). Pilates Practical Companion. New York, NY: DK Publishing.

Five Tips To Manage Plantar Fasciitis

Please note: This article originally appeared on Pro Health (prohealth.com) on December 15th, 2015.

Unfortunately, foot pain is an all too common complaint among Lyme disease patients. Plantar fasciitis is often diagnosed because it’s a frequent cause of heel and arch pain. The dense, fibrous tissues that run along the bottom of your foot, connecting the heel to the base of your toe, become uncomfortable and inflamed. If you suffer from this type of foot pain, you know how difficult–sometimes, downright excruciating–it is to be on your feet. The pain is often most noticeable in the mornings, but frequent periods of standing or sitting can also provoke a flare-up of your symptoms at any time of the day. While there are several reasons for the onset of plantar fasciitis, the following tips can help you manage, and hopefully reduce, the severity of your foot pain.

1. Rule out co-infections.

Initially, it might seem unimportant to mention foot pain to your Lyme-treating physician when there are often a myriad of other issues to treat. However, the co-infection Bartonella can mimic foot pain that is often misdiagnosed as plantar fasciitis. It’s essential to tell your doctor about this symptom. Doing so helps him or her to determine which infections to target during treatment. The good news is that foot pain due to Bartonella usually improves with treatment. In the meantime, you can use the tips outlined here to help lessen the intensity of the pain.

2. Consider taking a combination of calcium and magnesium.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia expert, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, recommends 1,000mg-1500mg of calcium and 200mg of magnesium at bedtime to relieve the irritation and stiffness associated with plantar fasciitis. He states that it can take up to six weeks to begin working, but this combination is usually quite effective at mitigating foot pain. Be sure to discuss the addition of these supplements with your doctor, as calcium and magnesium are known to interfere with the absorption of some medications like prescription thyroid medications and some antibiotics.

3. Ice the bottom of your foot.

Icing is one of the easiest and cheapest modalities to use to lessen foot pain. Simply wrap an ice pack in a cloth or towel. Then, place the pack on the bottom of your foot over the area of pain for 15-20 minutes. Repeat three to four times per day for maximum benefit.

4. Stretch your calves.

Plantar fasciitis can be exacerbated by tight calves or Achilles’ tendons. By incorporating two simple stretches into your day, you improve the flexibility, mobility, and position of your foot.

Lying Down Calve Stretch:

Position: Lying in a comfortable buy soma online cod position on your back

Props: Yoga strap, towel or belt

Lie in a comfortable position on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Straighten your right leg toward the ceiling. Place the yoga strap, towel, or belt around the ball of your right foot. While keeping your leg as straight as possible, gently pull on the strap until you feel a stretch in your calf and down the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat the stretch three times, and then proceed to the left leg.

Downward Dog Stretch:

Position: Bearing weight on your hands and feet in an inverted “V.”

Props: Yoga mat or some other non-skid surface

I like to use this particular yoga posture because it stretches both the hamstrings and Achilles’ tendons. Place your palms flat on the mat, floor, or some other non-skid surface where you won’t slip. Your palms should be shoulder-width apart on your mat, and your fingers comfortably spread open. Step back with each leg until your body is in the shape of an inverted “V.” Press your feet into the floor, straightening your legs as much as you can–never overdoing the pose. For some people, the heels will reach all the way to the floor. For others, they won’t. The goal is to feel gentle stretching down the back of your legs and into your Achilles’ tendons. Reach your tailbone to the sky, and relax your upper back, head and neck in this pose. Hold for ten deep breaths.

Advanced: If you are familiar with this pose, you can bicycle your legs; lifting the right heel, then the left, to deepen the stretch in the calves. Alternate heels for ten deep breaths.

5. Massage the bottom of your foot with a tennis ball.

Position: Either sitting or standing

Props: A tennis ball

You can perform this stretch either seated or standing, depending on what feels best to you. Place a tennis ball on the ground. Put your foot on top of the ball and roll it back forth along the length of your arch. Use enough pressure so that you feel a deep stretch. When you locate areas of soreness, continue slowly massaging those areas until you notice an improvement.

While these tips are helpful to many people, It’s important to remember they can take a few weeks to a few months to yield improvements. If you do not see progress in your pain levels within a reasonable timeframe, please don’t lose hope. There are several options to discuss with your doctor, like physical therapy sessions, personalized orthotics, and taping techniques, as well as others, to get you on the path to recovery.

References:

Teitelbaum, J. (2015). Plantar Fasciitis. From Fatigued To Fantastic. Retrieved from

http://www.jacobteitelbaum.com/natural_cures/plantarfasciitis.html

http://www.prohealth.com/library/showArticle.cfm?libid=22087&site=articles#discus

Lessons Learned Through Joy, Pain, and Self-Discovery

[Note: This article originally appeared on Pro Health on December 7th, 2015. www.prohealth.com. Christmas is a time for reflection over the past year, and celebrating the possibilities for the new year. It seems appropriate to me then, that I would post this article today. Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a new year filled with joy, peace, and healing. Here’s to 2016!]

October 24, 2013, was probably an average Thursday in the lives of most people. For me, however, it was a life-changing day; it was the day I finally had some answers. After numerous doctors and ten years of seriously declining health–the last 18-months of which I spent bedridden–I listened sharply on the phone as my nurse practitioner informed me, “You have Lyme Disease. You’ve probably had it most of your life.”

I was both scared and relieved to hear this news. Scared because, well, I knew I would be embarking on one of the greatest challenges of my life, and relieved because I was no longer in the dark about what to call the mysterious illness wreaking havoc on my body. The list of diagnoses I had collected over the years–from Interstitial Cystitis and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis to Fibromyalgia, and Adrenal Fatigue–all suddenly seemed interconnected. I knew the path to reclaiming my health would require patience, persistence, effort, and faith. Nevertheless, I was ready to confront the illness that had sidelined me for years. Thankfully, I had the support of my loving husband and family.

On that fall morning in October, my nurse practitioner laid the groundwork for a treatment protocol that has slowly helped me to rebuild my life, one tiny step at a time. There are layers of damage to address as a result of going years–maybe even decades–with undiagnosed, systemic infections. I just passed the two-year treatment mark. I am not cured or well yet, but I am healing. I still have ups and downs; I have flashes where it seems like remission is in reach and stages where I can barely lift my head from the pillow. In spite of all the highs and lows along this bumpy road, I am forever transformed by the lessons learned through joy, pain and, self-discovery. Here are those lessons:

Learn to resist the urge to dwell in a negative headspace for long periods of time.

In the beginning, I had spent countless amounts of energy thinking about the past; what I once was capable of doing, and the social life I had prior to my illness. Dwelling on the past immediately ushered me into a very dark, negative place in my mind. Isolated from the things and people I loved the most, the loneliness was heartbreaking. I felt hopeless, lost and frustrated. I grew too fearful to even imagine a future where joy and dreams could exist. Sickness appeared to win and overtake the best parts of me.

I am not exactly sure when the shift in my thinking occurred; but my core, my spirit, the very deepest places of me, eventually changed. I let go of anger and gave cheap generic soma myself permission to redefine my identity in spite of the struggles I faced. In contrast, by maintaining my focus on the present and not the past, I discovered more peace within my situation. Slowly, I began to see light and hope in the places once occupied by darkness and negativity. I still struggle, but I see an opportunity for personal growth in the midst of my troubles and I choose to embrace it. I am more content nowadays as I take on these health challenges, and much less likely to contemplate the gloomy side of things.

When one chapter of life closes, a new chapter begins.

Early in my treatment, I came across a wonderful quote from Pastor Brian Houston. It reads:

“Never ever confuse the end of an era in your life as the completion of your destiny.”

The truth of his words gripped my heart with such conviction I have yet to forget them. He was right. There was no denying that an era in my life had ended. Although I grieved those devastating losses for months, I began to hope and affirm a new beginning; a season of healing and anticipation, in my life. I anchored my thoughts to the idea that I still had a purpose and a destiny, and I have not looked back.

Even though I am strained beneath the weight of a controversial illness, I know I still have a unique set of gifts and talents worth sharing with the world. I accept that Lyme disease is my present circumstance. Thankfully, circumstances can and do change. However, the destiny for my life does not. It’s so freeing to write that!

Take time to celebrate the small victories.

Yes, I still have a chronic illness, but I repeatedly test the notion that I can’t enjoy life. I frequently take mental vacations from my illness– from obsessing over it, Googling it, and chatting about it. Instead, I try to celebrate small victories and nurture my adventuresome spirit.

I snap pictures of just about everything I do. That’s become my approach to maintaining a celebratory, productive outlook. When progress seems slow to come, I can look at these visual reminders and see there have been several small victories. These accomplishments help me to combat adversity and renew my optimism.

I hope I will one day beat Lyme disease altogether. I am steadfast in my determination and more resilient than I realized. Ultimately, there are many more healing milestones to celebrate along the way.

My current treatment is aggressive and will continue to be intense for a while. Although someone else could be angry about their experience with chronic Lyme disease, most of the time, I am not. I choose to stay grateful that I have a body that refuses to give up. Another person– a different body– may have quit a long time ago. In the middle of all the chaos, there have been moments of immense happiness over the last two years. I live for those moments. They are the fuel for my soul to continue this healing journey.