Hydrotherapy for MS: Debunking the Heat Sensitivity Barrier

The hydrotherapy pool has proven itself to be a great environment for improving fitness, increasing muscle strength, improved mobility and walking, reducing fatigue, improved well-being and quality of life for people suffering from multiple sclerosis.

What is heat sensitivity in MS?

Increased body temperature for a multiple sclerosis sufferer leads to slowing of nerve conduction and therefore an increased fatigue, weakness and temporary worsening of old or onset of new symptoms; usually resolving within 24 hours.

Will the warm pool contribute to heat sensitivity?

A common misconception amongst MS patients is that a hydrotherapy pool will be detrimental to their function as a result of heat sensitivity. However, water is a better conductor of heat than air, so heat can quickly be carried away for improved temperature regulation during more intense exercise in the pool- more so than on land. Studies have shown no adverse effects for people with MS in pools with a temperature of 25-35°c.

Tips for Managing Heat Sensitivity

  • Exercise in a well-ventilated pool with a temperature of 25-35 degrees
  • Stay well hydrated
  • All exercise requires an adaptation period, so take regular short rest breaks
  • Everyone’s body is different: Try exercising in a few different pools/ different temperatures within the prescribed range and find which one suits your body best.

What do I do if my symptoms get worse following exercise in the pool?

If symptoms are worse for any more than 2 hours after a pool session, then the session is likely too challenging. Speak to your Neurological physiotherapist about how to modify your program.

Some comorbidities can affect your safety in the water, so make sure to discuss an appropriate hydrotherapy plan with us before commencing.