Hydrotherapy is just wonderful!

19th September 2018

The Outpatient Team at Burrswood Health and Wellbeing are a vibrant department who welcome many people through their doors each week.

From the office worker recovering from an ankle sprain, to the retired person wanting to maintain fitness  and uses the pool independently to carry out their prescribed exercises;  from the young mother who has been struggling with back pain since the birth of her bouncy baby girl, to the gentleman attending the weekly Parkinson’s exercise group.

There really is something for everyone, whether it’s to facilitate recovery from an operation or to give advice about the management of a long-term condition or promote a healthy active lifestyle.

With the recent refurbishment of the hydrotherapy pool and rehabilitation gym, the Physio Team Lead, Jess, recently met with Alex to find out a little bit more about her journey.

So Alex, tell the readers of ‘Burrswood News’ a little bit about yourself

I’m Alex and I’m 58.  I’m widowed and live by myself which is a really important point as I have had to learn to cope alone.

In 1997, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune connective tissue disease.  I started to notice a slow decline in my function.  I couldn’t get up from sitting down and stairs were becoming more difficult.  I was also starting to develop swallowing issues and global muscle weakness, fine dexterity in my hands was difficult; which is ironic because I’ve always been very fit and healthy. 

Then in 2013, I was finally diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy (MD), after over two years of hospital tests and investigations.  Other issues that I also have include Retinal Dystrophy and Raynaud’s Disease.

What are your main symptoms?

With Sjogren’s Syndrome I suffer with dry eyes and a dry mouth, and experience chronic fatigue – a bit like a flu.

With MD, I struggle with basic mobility. I am at risk of falls and day to day functions prove difficult – simple things like picking up objects as I have reduced grip, so regularly drop things.

In addition, I also suffer from severe osteoarthritis in both knees.

What message of encouragement would you give to anyone reading this?

I want to say don’t give up.  Make sure you get input from every discipline including physio, speech and language and occupational therapy. 

How did you first hear about Burrswood and what do you come to Burrswood for?

I think it was Mr Gibb, the knee specialist  at the Nuffield Hospital, Tunbridge Wells  who thought it would benefit me to come as a complement to the physio I was receiving on the NHS.  I first came for hydro in October 2017 and now I also have weekly taping with the physio.  The taping was suggested after a very thorough assessment which the therapist suggested given my physical presentation and difficulties reported.

What qualities would best describe the therapy team at Burrswood?

The physios at Burrswood really do work together as a team.  Every one has different expertise and they liaise with each other to ensure that I receive the best possible treatment.   It really has been individualised and patient-centred care, taking in to consideration my condition and my circumstances.  They look at so many factors – not just the physical presentation but take a really holistic approach to treatment planning and delivery.

What have been the benefits to you personally of physiotherapy and hydrotherapy?

Hydrotherapy is just wonderful! I have found it immensely relaxing and therapeutic and have been able to work muscles that I can’t work on land, within the safety of the pool and under expert supervision.  I experience a real sense of wellbeing both in the pool and when I come out.  Hydro is amazing because I can move in the water without hyperextending my knees, which is a serious problem for me when walking around on land, causing me pain and often being the reason that I fall. I cannot express enough how lovely hydro is! 

I mainly see the physios here for taping.  Before coming to Burrswood, no one else had spoken about taping.  I am waiting for a special custom-made brace from orthotics and other than my buprenorphine patch and anti-inflammatories for the pain, I really wanted something that would help to support my knees in the interim.

Once the physio applies the tape I feel the benefits straight away – it’s amazing!  For me it’s very supportive for my legs as the muscle wasting causes my legs to give way without warning causing falls.  Taping gives me reassurance and improved confidence.  A real bonus is that I haven’t had any falls since having regular taping, and therefore it acts as a preventative falls measure and this for me is life-changing. 

When I don’t have the tape on and I go to stand from sitting, I get clicking and knee pain; but with the tape, there is no clicking! 

You come across as being a very positive lady.  How do you maintain such a positive outlook when dealing with some of these day to day challenges?

I have a great circle of friends who are lovely!   I focus on keeping well, and for me that means staying strong and mobile which the hydrotherapy pool is great for.

I do sometimes experience moments of sadness; grieving for the plans that I once had, but I look at each day and get pleasure from the simple things; even a gentle walk around a garden centre.

Would you recommend Burrswood Physiotherapy department to friends and family?

Most definitely! Burrswood is like a lifeline for me whether it’s the hydro, the taping or even coming for a coffee with a friend.  I would describe Burrswood as a little jewel waiting for you, it is here to help!!

What makes Burrswood different to other rehabilitation facilities?

'Progressive and degenerative' disease such as Muscular Dystrophy has a huge effect on a person both physically and emotionally especially if no treatments or cure can be given as in my case.  So to feel the wellbeing of the therapies offered at Burrswood is very important as it’s not like a conventional hospital environment.  There is also a counselling facility if a person feels they would like support with coming to terms with their prognosis.  Coping with a life-changing and degenerative illness is very difficult and challenging, and knowing that there won't be improvement is hard to come to terms with, so having support with this is important.  I believe that by being proactive and coming to Burrswood for my leg taping and hydrotherapy, I am helping myself cope in a way with the inevitable and chronic deterioration in mobility due to the disease.

Burrswood therapies really do complement NHS therapies as most treatments are for 6 weeks on the NHS, and so for progressive and degenerative conditions; permanent and continuous therapy is important.

The Chapel is lovely at Burrswood and there’s the opportunity to go to Reflection meetings and Services and to light memory candles which I do.

What would you say to encourage people who are considering coming to hydrotherapy?

Definitely go! Try it!

Build it in to your day – tell yourself, ‘I’m not going swimming; I’m going to hydro!’

Just enjoy it. It’s a lovely pool and you can also go and have a coffee after in the café.

It’s also an investment.  You put time in to your home and time in to your car… why not put time in to your body?  A car with no wheels doesn’t get very far; just like a body with reduced function in its arms and legs.