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Exercise and Reconditioning During CFS/Fibromyalgia (and Lyme!) Treatment

Exercise and Reconditioning During CFS/Fibromyalgia Treatment
By Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

Dr. Teitelbaum has us given permission to reprint information from his website. While that website is focused on treating CFS and Fibromyalgia, Dr. Teitelbaum considers Lyme disease to be a factor in both illnesses, and the information he gives is often useful in treating Lyme disease as well.

Dear Readers,

When being treated for any debilitating illness, reconditioning is a critical part of getting well. Because of the body wide “energy crisis” seen in CFS/Fibromyalgia, most of you have found that you were unable to condition beyond a certain point (it takes energy to store energy in muscles—which is what conditioning is). Instead, the doctor would push you to exercise, and you would spend the next 2 days in bed feeling like you had been hit by a truck!

The good news is that as you do our proven effective “SHINE Protocol” (Sleep, Hormones, Infections, Nutrition, and Exercise AS ABLE—discussed at length in my book “From Fatigued to Fantastic!”), you will find that your body starts making the energy needed to condition. You will then be able to exercise more and more—and it will actually leave you feeling better and stronger. [Read more…]

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Exercising With Lyme Disease

Question: Dr. Burrascano says to do no aerobic exercise, what about moderate walking. Is it good for the spirit?

Dr. Burrascano’s advice about avoiding aerobic exercise does not preclude long walks. He is warning against pushing yourself to get the endorphin rush that many athletic people love. Walking is fine as long as you are not exhausted when you finish, or do not feel more tired the next day. Limit activity to a level that doesn’t wear you out. Do not use your memory of what you used to do to guide you. Be aware of what feels good in your present condition. A stressed body will not heal from a chronic infection. If your walk is all you can do for that day, you did too much. Start slowly and incrementally. Increase by 1-3 minutes as you are able and you will regain your health. Push yourself, and you will stay stuck in the exertion and crash pattern. This inhibits immune function and adrenal recovery. Slow but regular physical exercise will increase muscle mass and help modulate your inflammatory response.

Question: Can I walk every day if I am able to besides doing the exercise that Dr. Burrascano suggested?

Yes. I agree with Dr. Burrascano that exercise is important in the healing process. I suspect that he and I would agree that if you exercise to the point of feeling exhausted afterwards, and that if that exhaustion lasts a day or more, (what we refer to as post exertional malaise), that amount of exercise is not healthy for that individual. The key point here is that a patient with Lyme disease is using so much energy to fight their infection(s) that they must no overdo in exercise, or they risk compromising the healing process. Having said that, in addition to the specific program recommended by Dr. Burrascano, I am a proponent of any form of low impact exercise that is well tolerated. It’s all about balance, and moderation, and listening to your body about what you can and can’t do. As long as you don’t overdo, exercise can be quite beneficial.

Question: Dr. Burrascano says to do no aerobic exercise, what about moderate walking. It is good for the spirit?

The point of this message is that aerobic exercise can temporarily deplete the immune system, which can make Lyme disease harder to treat. This lowered immunity is demonstrated by the well documented fact that marathon runners have increased susceptibility to viruses in the days following races. Some people with milder cases of Lyme do feel fine after aerobic exercise. Listen to your body and speak to your doctor. If you feel invigorated after aerobic exercise, then it may be fine for you.  If you feel more tired or stressed after aerobic exercise, then it probably is not serving you. There are many other kinds of gifts for the spirit. If aerobic exercise makes you sick, then it may be better to find a different kind of uplifting activity.

Dr Eric Gordon practices in Santa Rosa, California at Gordon Medical Associates. What Dr. Eric Gordon emphasizes is listening to his patients. “I believe my patients. Their description of what is going on in their body is the most accurate way we have to assess what is going on with them. I interpret the information they present, and blend it with laboratory results and imaging and other tests to determine a protocol that is customized to their condition.”