He won an Olympic medal for skiing in 1968—and then was diagnosed with MS in 1970.
When Jimmy got MS the common wisdom was to rest. Rest in bed. Get in bed and get ready to stay there for the duration.
Jimmy thought there must be another approach. He gave motivational speeches for relate people with MS with a radical departure from the current wisdom. His message: get moving! Push yourself to the limit, he said.
But don’t overdo it. If you get tired, stop. Rest. Then: get up and keep going till you reach your goal.
I have a friend with MS who told me how she stays positive. I DO NOT OVERDO IT—I NOTICE WHEN I NEED REST.
Jimmy Huega’s advice to stop and rest never really applied to me. My friend’s choice to notice when she needs rest doesn’t relate to me. I also don’t have spasticity as a result of MS.
So I thought.
This week I learned (1) that spasticity causes more than a jerking movement, it also results in painfully stiff muscles when I don’t rest when needed, and (2) Huega and my friend are right— DO NOT OVERDO IT—REST WHEN NEEDED.
What does spasticity have to do with ignoring rest?
This week my niece walked with me so that I would get ‘my miles’ in. Donned in cushioned sneakers, I was ready for the DC sidewalks—or so I thought!
Three days in a row I was limping by the time I got home, though I did my best to camouflage it (my niece is very kind, and I will never know if she noticed that I was grabbing rails to get up her steps and back in the house).
I knew something was happening—either MS was claiming another piece of my body or else I was not treating my stiff muscles right. That is when I learned more about spasticity.
What studies say about Multiple Sclerosis and spasticity
“Spasticity happens because of an imbalance in the electrical signals coming from the brain and spinal cord, often when multiple sclerosishas damaged the nerves there. This unevenness makes muscles contract on their own and makes them tense” (http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/guide/controlling-muscle-spasms-multiple-sclerosis).
This article explained that we with MS, more than others, are more likely to experience spasticity when we work out.
In other words the result of hard exercise, on some people with MS—not me—is spasticity is uncontrolled muscle jerking or contracting.
So I thought.
Spasticity more than a muscle jerking
Another study explains: “spasticity can be defined as a tightening or stiffness of the muscle due to increased muscle tone, and is often made worse when muscles are quickly stretched or moved (http://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Brochure-Stretching-for-People-with-MS-An-Illustrated-Manual.pdf)
MS causes my leg muscles to get tight and stiff when I push myself to the limit. That’s spasticity.
Huega’s Approach Jimmy Huega didn’t say stop pushing to do the most you can do. Huega said to do everything you can do, just take rests.
Like my friend I will learn to notice my body and to not ignore it when it wants a rest.
It is ironically empowering to identify where the painful stiffness came from. Now I can strategize and it is easier to deal with. I follow Huega’s advise—I am learning to rest for a couple of minutes when I feel the invisible pain start.
One form of rest for me is sitting down when I feel stiffness and that invisible beginning of pain. Admitting when my body wants to take a break is something to learn—but Huega is my coach now, and when I need the 5 minute rest, I am determined to take it.
The studies have another method to counteract spasticity. Next week I’ll share that, and also the unexpected perk of that method.