This post is a day late as I was super sleepy all weekend & yesterday; ironically the reason I was so worn out was because of the topic of today’s post! On Friday, myself & fellow Spoonie (& good friend of mine) Emma (who you can find over at elcscience) went to our local hydrotherapy pool & had a fabulous time, so I thought I’d write about it on here!
I’m really lucky that I live near a hydrotherapy pool, that was originally part of a now-closed school for Deaf children – but, what’s the difference between a regular pool & a hydrotherapy pool? Well, to start with, hydrotherapy pools are warmer than regular swimming pools, & this is because they’re set up so that people with injuries or disabilities are able to do their exercises without cold water making them stiff or creating more pain than necessary. Additionally, the hydrotherapy pool in my town also has special light effects & water features, which were installed to help stimulate the Deaf children that the pool was originally designed for.
I was told about this pool when my NHS hydrotherapy sessions (all four of them) ran out in January, but at the time I was at university & couldn’t really afford a membership, & I also didn’t want to risk hurting myself & falling behind on my coursework. I’m not actually working right now, as some of you will be aware of, so this swim was a one-off until I’m able to afford a membership at the pool. I actually think it’s a little ridiculous that I have to pay for hydrotherapy sessions after only getting four on the NHS (especially considering the fact that I wouldn’t even need hydrotherapy now if I had been given physiotherapy when I learnt to walk again at 17), but as anyone in the UK will know; the NHS is extremely stretched right now. Thankfully though, I will get a discount at the hydrotherapy pool when I get my membership as I have a medical referral from a physiotherapist!
So, why do I need hydrotherapy, rather than physiotherapy, or any other type of exercise? Well, with my syringomyelia any type of physical activity can leave me in extreme pain, so for a long time I’ve shied away from trying to make myself stronger – it’s bad of me, I know. Anyway, when my knee-specialist suggested that hydrotherapy may be a good idea to help strengthen my knees, I felt very excited; when I was younger I actually swam for my county, and I was pretty good, & the idea of getting back in the water sounded amazing. And when I did get into the pool at my hospital for the first time I did feel amazing; I loved being back in the water, it just felt so good, & I could do exercise without immediate pain because of the heat of the water. Plus, my syringomyelia specialist feels that hydrotherapy is better for me than other forms of exercise, as muscle memory should mean that it leaves me in less pain than other exercise would.
As you can probably tell, I was devastated when my NHS hydrotherapy sessions ran-out, especially because I didn’t feel like four half an hour sessions were enough to make a real difference to me! And it seems the hospital knows that this isn’t enough, because when you do finish they give you a referral letter, with a number on it; a number that will allow you to find out about local trainers who will continue with your hydrotherapy sessions at a discounted price. One of the physiotherapists at my hospital then suggested the pool at the old Deaf school because it’s only 10 minutes from my house, and when I saw photographs of the place I knew I had to go there.
Anyway! On Friday I went to the hydrotherapy pool for the first time with my friend Emma & we had a fab time. There were 6 people at most in the pool, including us, at one time (as I don’t think the place is very well known) & you could tell that most of the people who came & went during our session were there because they’d had hydrotherapy at the hospital, as they were doing some of the exercises I had been taught. As well as the temperature of the water being off-putting, the idea of going to a public pool also terrifies me because I’m not very strong anymore & so a busy public pool really wouldn’t be ideal, so being somewhere that wasn’t busy was so lovely. It helped relax me as well, as I wasn’t worried about people judging me – most of us there had some sort of ailment so there’s no shame in doing the specific hydrotherapy exercises!
Plus, the lighting & the water features made the whole experience so much more relaxing as well; there weren’t any bright lights, just colour changing lights that were projected onto the water. And the fact that one corner of the pool had a bubble-feature that made it feel like a hot-tub was awesome. There was also enough space for everyone to swim lengths if they wanted to, & I have to admit, I was so proud of myself for how much actual swimming I did! I did a lot of squats in the water & other hydrotherapy exercises, whilst Emma mainly swam around, but I did try to swim like I used to & it just felt so amazing to feel normal & healthy. We were there for a good couple of hours, & to be honest I think I could have stayed longer! And every night since I’ve wished I could go back.
Despite how great the experience was, I have been incredibly tired ever since – but I actually feel like it was worth it. I was on a high on Saturday & managed to get some other posts scheduled & I know that, when I can make it a regular thing, swimming & doing specific exercises in the water will help me get stronger. Emma was also in a lot of pain the next day, but I know that she wants to make it a regular thing when I’m able to as well. I think having Emma with me also helped me feel more confident about going there for the first time – so thanks Emma, you’re a total babe!
It was also lovely to see how proud of me my mum & boyfriend were; they both want me to make it a regular thing when I can, & my boyfriend has even offered to pay for my monthly membership until I’m able to (I of course cannot accept this offer, but it’s so lovely that he made the suggestion). This feels like the start of a new journey for me & I can’t wait until I’m able to get a membership & go regularly.
For more information on why hydrotherapy is beneficial you can visit the sites listed below: