A Physician with MS Brings Aquatic Therapy Home
A Candid Interview with Dr. Terry Wahls
"I get in, I swim, I get out, and I feel like wonder woman – absolutely invincible," says Dr. Terry Wahls. A physician, researcher, and author, Dr. Wahls is also a patient; she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. Just two years later, she purchased an Endless Pools® Original pool for her home aquatic therapy.
The pool, she now reflects, "allowed me to continue to exercise as I became progressively more disabled, into a reclined wheelchair, unable to sit up. But I was still doing my aquatic exercises, and that was absolutely instrumental in keeping me as functional as I could be."
In this video interview, Dr. Wahls reflects on life before MS, why she believes in aquatic therapy, and how she uses it as one critical part of her healing journey.
AN ACTIVE LIFE
"Before becoming a physician," Dr. Wahls recalls, "I was an athlete. I ran, I skied, I climbed mountains, I did full contact Taekwondo, with national competition.
"About 20 years after medical school, I developed weakness in my left leg, and that’s when I was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. They tied together some other neurologic symptoms that I’d been having for about seven years.
"Within two years, it was very clear that I wasn’t able to jog anymore," she laments. "And so, I started looking at swimming because I had been swimming regularly but getting to and from the pool was cumbersome. I had kids."
As she was considering an Endless Pools purchase, "my mom said, 'Terry, this is the best money you’ll ever spend in your life. If this keeps you active, and your kids will enjoy it, for heaven’s sake, spend the money and get the pool.' And man, she was so right."
"[For] anybody with a neurologic condition, the pool is uniquely beneficial," says Dr. Terry Wahls. Here, she's water-walking in her Endless Pools Original model to help alleviate her multiple sclerosis symptoms. "You’re able to do things in the pool ... that are really hard for you to do on the ground."
AQUATIC THERAPY AT HOME
"I love swimming. I enjoy the aquatic exercises. That’s still very much in the rotation of things that I do," Dr. Wahls reports now. "I get into my pool two to three days a week for a lovely swim and a round of quad exercises.
"Certainly, in the MS community," Dr. Wahls says that she hears "very consistent feedback that swimming has helped their function [and] their balance, reduced their fatigue, [and] improved their mood."
Aquatic exercise is just one part of her multiple sclerosis symptom management. She cites "several key components" including a suitable diet, sufficient sleep, and working with a physical therapist. "You can go to a physical therapist, get your program designed based on your needs, and then they may have a pool that you can work out with, or a community pool. Or if you have the resources, getting a pool at home reduces the time."
As a doctor and a researcher, she recommends aquatic therapy exercises to alleviate symptoms of a range of ailments. "If you have an arthritic problem, whether it’s osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, swimming in the pool is really very helpful. If you have heart disease, atherosclerosis, we want people to have an exercise program, and so an aquatic exercise – whether it’s just aquatic exercise, walking in the pool, or swimming – [is] a great way to do cardiac rehab.
"[For] anybody with a neurologic condition, the pool is uniquely beneficial because of the buoyancy. You’re able to do things in the pool – walking in your pool, doing cross-lateral body movements in the pool because of that buoyancy – that are really hard for you to do on the ground." Dr. Wahls calls pool therapy "a wonderful, wonderful form of exercise and rehabilitation."
Dr. Terry Wahls swims with the Endless Pools current to help relieve her MS symptoms. "In the MS community," she hears "very consistent feedback that swimming has helped their function [and] their balance, reduced their fatigue, [and] improved their mood."
AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
"My experience with the Endless Pool has been very positive," Dr. Wahls has found. "I got my pool in 2002, so nearly 20 years ago, and we have had regular interactions in terms of the scheduled service [and] who to find to help me if I have any pool issues. I’ve had great response from the Endless Pools people when I interact with them.
"I love my pool. I have so much fun with it. Our kids had lots and lots of fun with it." Of course, some of the fun in her life comes from staying active and mobile with her multi-tiered healing journey, which includes home aquatic therapy thanks to Endless Pools. "Yeah, it’s a joy. I love it."