To Be Forewarned Is to Be Forearmed

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by John Connor |

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My travails with MS invariably deal with what it does to me. This week, dear reader, it’s what I did to my jolly old self!

I’ve got a daily light exercise routine designed for me by an occupational therapist (OT) and a physiotherapist. Why two professionals? Well, the OT did the top half and the physio did the bottom. I asked both why, and they brushed it off, mumbling something about weird office politics!

If this had been Britain in the ’60s, their comments would be straight out of rigid trade union demarcation lines. Both therapists would be burly blokes with flat caps braying gutturally, “I can only deal with your top half, sir. It’s more than my job is worth to go near the bottom!” And vice versa.

Thankfully, neither were burly or wore flat caps. They didn’t have the requisite cigarette on the go, either. That is tough these days while wearing a mask!

In my youth, I was a dedicated sportsman. I played cricket twice a week during the summer. No training, just lots of social drinking afterward — except school matches, of course. During the winter, I played football once a week. There was weekly training: lots of group road running. You knew you were getting relatively fit when you no longer threw up along the way! I presume rain and dog-walking helped to clear the pavements across the country every September.

It’s of little surprise I always preferred cricket season. It was a very satisfactory introduction into adulthood for a 14-year-old. Being good enough at sports to be wanted on the men’s teams accelerated you into the inner sanctum of bar culture. I never needed to hang around outside a corner shop to furtively ask an adult to buy me and my sniggering mates cans of lager. Instead, frothing jugs of ale passed between the teams, usually bought on the pretext of how individuals had succeeded in the game.

Why this nostalgia? Well, it leads directly to me hitting and careering through the wall this week!

Football (I refuse to write “soccer” for you Americans!) was harder. But I always pushed myself in training. I did more repetitions than asked. In cricket, I was a fast bowler, which takes a horrendous toll on the body.

Pain and exercise went together. In the short term, it was uncomfortable, but the rewards on the field were incomparable! I had learned about this and British drinking culture at an early age. Both proved invaluable.

In my first year at university, while others were getting wrecked in the bars on campus, I read books. Well, sometimes I also wrote for the university paper. I even remember its name 40 years later: The Scan. Hardly memorable, unless you wrote solidly for it for three years!

The exercises my OT designed for my neuropathic right arm are suitably conservative: five reps for each exercise. I long ago doubled these. Recently, to enable myself to lift myself up more easily, I occasionally increased this to 100. Yes, OK, completely barmy. But this behavior has its roots in my sporting youth.

The only difference is that I don’t reward myself with a scotch afterward!

I felt good on Monday, so I threw in 100 reps on my arm exercises. It got painful. I smashed on through!

However, the rewards of pain don’t apply to your neuropathic bits. The pain continued increasing afterward, then accelerated into overdrive, reaching a spasm. My right arm retreated into the full clutch of the Napoleonic one across the chest at Waterloo! I whimpered as I was hoisted onto my own steed — my bed — where I immediately downed two Valium (diazepam). The pain receded as I crashed into sleeping numbness.

I woke groggily in the morning. The seizure had passed. My carers arrived, and a bed bath was all I could safely manage. As I’m writing this two days later, I seem to have recovered.

Luckily, in this job I get to write about the experience to reinforce that although I’m an idiot, if I do it again, I’d be a really big idiot!


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Brissa A. Pérez avatar

Brissa A. Pérez

¡Me ha gustado muchísimo!

Cyndi avatar


Your article was oddly comforting. I too suffer from the former athlete's internal drive (or ego) of "if I can do 10 reps, surely I can do 100". And of course I/you can...and do...and then we pay the price for it as you well explain. Regardless, we seem to forget (or are simply unwilling to give in) and find ourselves repeating the error. Not good I know...but I always feel a small victory of telling MS "no, you're not taking this away from me today" (even if I have to rest for 3-4 hours thereafter).


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