Hydrotherapy for LEMS

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by Mary Chapman |

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Hydrotherapy, or the use of water exercises, is a complementary therapy that may benefit some people with neuromuscular conditions such as Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS).

Here is some information about hydrotherapy and how it may be helpful to you.

About LEMS

LEMS is a progressive autoimmune disorder that affects the nerve cells that control muscle movement. Its primary symptoms include muscle weakness, fatigue, and pain. About 60% of LEMS cases are associated with small-cell lung cancer.

While there are treatments to manage the symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life, there currently is no cure for LEMS. Trying complementary therapies, such as hydrotherapy, may build upon the benefits of traditional treatments.

What is hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy use water exercises to treat certain conditions, particularly those having to do with joints or muscles. Movement against water helps to exercise muscles, while buoyancy assists movement. The treatment can be altered to improve your strength or range of motion, depending on your symptoms.

Unlike swimming, hydrotherapy involves doing exercises in warmer water. Usually, you would do certain exercises in a pool with water that is warmer than that of a swimming pool. Because it generally emphasizes slow, controlled movements and relaxation, hydrotherapy also differs somewhat from aqua aerobics, which can be somewhat strenuous.

How may hydrotherapy help me?

Natural healing methods such as meditation, acupuncture, massage, and hydrotherapy may help relieve symptoms in some people with neuromuscular conditions. However, more research is necessary to determine the degree and nature of potential benefits.

This therapy may ease pain and muscle weakness that in LEMS can put extra stress on joints, ligaments, and muscles. It can result in a sense of freedom plus improved flexibility and a greater range of movement that supports muscle-strengthening exercises. The water’s warm temperature also can provide muscle relaxation and pain relief.

Hydrotherapy may be part of a LEMS patient’s physiotherapy program, which also involves movement and exercise, education, and advice. Such approaches may help to slow disease progression and maintain muscle strength, improving quality of life.

What does it involve?

Physiotherapists may prescribe a few 30-minute sessions. Treatment may take place at a hospital since many of them have pools. Exercises may involve various floats or other tools.

While sessions are tailored to a patient’s particular needs, you may share the pool with other people during your therapy. Group sessions also may be available.

You’ll need a swimsuit and towel, along with any medication that you need for exercising, such as an inhaler. You don’t have to be able to swim, however, and two healthcare team members, including your physiotherapist, will likely accompany you. They also will help you enter and exit the pool.

Are there any risks?

Your physiotherapist will assess whether hydrotherapy is suitable for you. If so, be mindful that the support the water offers may make you feel as though you can do more exercise than usual. So, take care to not overdo it. You also should alert the physiotherapist if you’re feeling unwell at any point in your session.

Despite its likely benefits, hydrotherapy is not a replacement for regular medical care. Be sure to follow the standard treatments that your doctor prescribes.


Last updated: Feb. 8, 2021


Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on the internet.