With chronic Lyme disease, there are some days you get to the point of frustration where you begin to doubt your treatments and wonder what is working and what isn’t. Today is one of those days. No, I take that back. This month is one of those months. Consistently, I see clues of healing: better, consistent bowel movements; more fluctuation in my knee swelling; normal weight gain; and overall feeling of more strength. Yet I continue to debate whether I’m taking a step backward or moving forward, not knowing whether the increased pain, fatigue or swelling is due to herx reactions and bacteria die-off in my system or my infections getting out of control again.
Through the ups and downs, I feel like I’m learning. It seems as if my lymphatic system is what’s holding me back. I’m beginning to wonder if my lack of movement (due to aches and fatigue) is a double-edged sword. Could a lack of exercise stall my lymph nodes and cause a backed-up system, creating more toxins to spread, and therefore more discomfort and pain? One of the hardest things for me to do over the past few years has been to sweat. When I do sweat, I feel better and see changes in my knee effusions afterward. When I work out, or have my knees or neck massaged properly, I tend to see more change in the amount of fluid in and around my knees. This leads me to believe I need to actively coax my lymph nodes to move the toxic waste.
The more I learn about the lymphatic system in our bodies, the more it fascinates me. Not only does it aid the immune system by destroying pathogens and filtering waste, it removes dead blood cells, cancer cells, toxins, and debris. On top of that, it works with the circulatory system transporting oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to cells that make up tissues in the body. How could I not want to support such a brilliant system when all I want to do is kill off Lyme spirochetes and kick bacterial infections out the door?
Recently I found a great little mini-trampoline on craigslist and started rebounding daily to get my lymphatic system moving. My wife and I also bought a couple of used bicycles to get some nice, low-impact exercise into my daily regimen. I was pleased to find out after trying so many pain-inducing, joint-swelling exercises that bicycling actually felt ok. And I could more easily work up a sweat without taking on the full weight of my upper body. Usually it takes a few minutes to get warmed up but I try to keep the RPM’s high and the gears low so I can keep my legs and joints moving with not as much effort. In fact, bicycling is the one form of exercise I’ve noticed that often does not make my knees swell any more than before a ride.
Initially it hurts to rebound. It hurts to ride a bike. It even hurts to walk down stairs or move from a standing position to laying on the floor some days. But that pain is usually from lack of moving. And I do feel less pain once my body has warmed up. I feel like moving in general is one of the most important things I can do to convince my body to expel all the toxic organisms that want to spread. So for now, my goal is to find as many ways to exercise and to sweat. Even if I have to wear 3 sweatshirts and bike for hours, it will be worth it.