Getting Back in the Water with My MS

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

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After a week of temperatures at 95 degrees or more making it too hot to swim, today was comfortable enough for me to get back into our condo’s pool.

The water temperature was perfect and cool enough to keep me refreshed. I had the best workout I’ve had this season: 20 lengths punctuated by water-walking after every three. I should try to do this at least every other day. My swim-walk-swim routine seems to strengthen my core and arms and makes my legs limber. I flutter-kick better while swimming if I walk forward, backward, and sideways between every few swimming lengths of the pool.

Aquatic therapy for MS

I’ve never engaged in formal water therapy, but I’ve discovered Laura Diamond, a physical therapist in Boston who specializes in aquatic therapy. Laura has created an excellent video of her program for those with multiple sclerosis (MS). She recommends combining the therapy that she provides in the pool with traditional physical therapy in a clinic. But you may be unable to find a convenient aqua therapist or afford the treatment. That’s where water exercise comes in.

Water exercise for MS

Unlike aquatic therapy, in which a patient works with a physical or occupational therapist, anyone should be able to set up a simple, do-it-yourself, water exercise program. My swim-walk-swim routine works well for me. But you might want to create a more formal program for yourself or work with exercise equipment in the pool.

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America has an MS Aquatics Center section on its website that can help you. It includes water exercise videos, text guides, and a recorded webinar. By the way, the association also coordinates a Swim for MS fundraising campaign. It’s like Walk for MS, but in the water.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has created a comprehensive aquatic exercise guide that covers body positions, equipment, and three levels of exercises. The guide is intended for instructors, but it can give you an idea of the wide variety of activities that you can do in a pool.

Keep safety in mind

Start slowly. Unless I’m feeling unusually energetic, I try to limit my water exercises to about 30 minutes. That seems to give me a decent workout without making me overtired. If the temperature of the pool is warmer than I like, I might make it shorter. If it’s cool, as it was today, I may add another 10 or 15 minutes. For your safety, swim at a pool with a lifeguard, or at least with another person who can assist you if necessary. Of course, check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program, wet or dry.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Pik avatar


Done water therapy 2015.It helps,but next day it was gone&back to my normal. Open the door at facility,sauna HOT,warm water,defeats purpose.Been on Ocrevus DMT 2yrs, now i can barely move.Thoughts of trying again sometime at different place.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

You're right. If the water is warm it defeats the purpose. Aqua therapy needs to be done differently for people with MS, in cooler water. I hope that you can find a facility that understands this.


Christine Noellert avatar

Christine Noellert

I’ve had MS for 16 yrs and added a swim exercise class to my PT regime about 2 1/2 yrs ago.

i’m both stunned and amazed by the positive results this pool therapy has brought to my life

Being weightless and balanced in the water allows me to move and strengthen my body in ways i could have never accomplished on the ground since my diagnosis!

Being so strong & fit now has greatly improved my balance & coordination outside the pool too!

My class is made up of other handicapped members who use walkers, wheelchairs and scooters.

The facility has a seated pool lift that can hoist you from your mobility device into the water.

Once you are safely in the pool you strap on a floater around your waist and then your arms and legs are free to move for water exercises

Participating in this pool therapy I feel like i got pre-MS back! I never would have imagined that the pool would have made such a difference in the quality of my MS life.

I encourage every MS’er to try this exercise approach and experience for yourself this life changing pool therapy!

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Christine,

This is great. How often do you take this class and what kind of exercises are you doing?



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