Excercising After a Fluoroquinolone Reaction

One of the many activities curtailed by having an adverse reaction to fluoroquinolone is physical exercise.  Whether you were an athlete prior to your FQ ADR or you were a sedentary individual, exercise can play an important role in your post floxed life, enhancing it and helping the body with the healing process.

I am not going to extol the general virtues of exercise since by now everyone should know that exercise benefits the body in many different ways and information on this subject is easily researched.  I will however extol the virtues of exercise for the floxed individual. 

After our reactions, many FQ sufferers become quite health conscious. Paying attention to drugs that are taken, foods that are consumed, and working hard on keeping what we have left of our bodies in good working order. Regardless of the type of FQ reaction that you have, you are going to have collateral damage. The amount of collateral damage obviously varies from victim to victim depending on numerous factors.   However, for most FQ sufferers there comes a point in their reaction timeline when they choose to start integrating a physical exercise regimen into their road back.  I think that there are numerous reasons why we, as FQ sufferers, should start exercising when we are physically capable.  In the next few paragraphs I will elaborate on a few areas where I think exercise benefits the FQ sufferer in particular.

Exercise has numerous positive effects on cognitive function and neurological function.  Most FQ sufferers have at least some neurological damage that can manifest itself in numerous different ways.  Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function by helping the hippocampus in the brain and improve synaptic responses.  It does this by increasing cell proliferation or turnover rate of nerve cells by increasing growth factors that create new nerve cells. Exercise also increases blood flow through the brain which increases the amount of oxygen the brain receives. 

Moderate exercise helps the immune system. Studies have shown that moderate exercise can reduce the amount of upper respiratory infections and reduce bodily inflammation. In addition, Exercise can help regulate adrenal output by helping reduce the level of cortisol buildup in the body.  Excess cortisol can lead to numerous health problems.  One problem faced by some FQ sufferers is adrenal gland malfunction.

Three questions that are often asked after one suffers from an ADR to the fluoroquinolones are: when do I start exercising, what type of exercises do I do, and how often?  When, is obviously a hard question to answer.   Two years into my reaction my joints still felt like they were held together by rubber bands and that too much exertion would cause damage.  It was not until I was at 32 months out that I decided to begin an exercise regimen.  For each sufferer, the answer to “when” question differs according to their reaction.  I know some floxies that were exercising three months after their reaction (obviously not a very severe reaction physically) and I know some who have not started five years after their reaction.  This decision is such a personal one and must be left to the individual and how they feel.  I believe that rushing to exercise too soon can cause severe damage.

 What type of exercise to do is also a hard question to answer but there is some helpful information garnered from other floxies who have started an exercise program.  Most FQ sufferers cannot tolerate impact exercise for quite some time, if ever, after their reaction.  I was very physically fit prior to my reaction and now almost three and a half years out I cannot tolerate any impact exercise whatsoever, that includes even walking for very far.  What I can tolerate is a no impact adjustable resistance exercise.  My exercise of choice is stationary bicycling. I purchased a very nice recumbent exercise bike with adjustable resistance that can be changed while bicycling and a built in cardio monitor.  I am able to adjust the resistance depending on how my legs feel that day and give myself a good aerobic workout.
The exercise bike allows me to work my ankle, knee and hip joints and well as the muscles associated with these joints. To benefit the rest of my body I do light resistance exercises to my arms and shoulder joints.  These consist of pulling, pushing, lifting, and curl exercises while a helper puts variable light pressure on the joints.   I can direct the helper to put more or less pressure on the joints depending on how they feel.  One final exercise I do is some mild sit-ups to keep the back limber.

Some floxies prefer to exercise in the swimming pool, and this can be very beneficial especially if it is a heated pool.  I have however had some floxies say that swimming still puts too much resistance on knee and shoulder joints.

Talking about exercising for floxies would not be complete without talking about pain.  I never realized the body could experience so many different kinds of pains at so many different levels.  Early on in my reaction deciphering the different pains was very hard to do.   Only after time did I learn what pains to pay attention to and what pains to ignore.  I had to learn that the “headache” like pains that I get in my joints, were not serious, and did not affect my exercises at all.  Then there are the phantom pains of neuropathy that come and go and with me are completely unrelated to exertion. If I get sharper pains in the tendons, I know that I have to back off the exercise and cool the tendon down.   I do this by putting an ice pack on the offending tendon after exercise. On an important note, exercise for the most part lowers my overall pain levels.  On average if I am not able to exercise for three days or more, my pain levels in usually increase.

This leads to me to the question of “how often?” In my life pre-floxing I would do intense aerobics every day, I now find that it takes me much longer to recoup even from moderate to mild exercise.  Because of this I prefer to exercise every other day and sometimes two days between sessions if I am not feeling up to it or I over did it.

One final note and that is what I call the paradoxical effect of insomnia.  Several floxies that I have talked to about exercise have reported that exercise sessions can worsen insomnia.  I have found this to be true in my case.  I speculate that this is caused by adrenal malfunction but I do not know for sure.  I have found that I can lessen the impact on insomnia if I exercise early in the day and consciously try to keep stress levels that day to a minimum and avoid too much sugar intake.  Overall, I believe that the benefits of exercise outweigh the negatives.



...damaged by fluoroquinolones in 2007 at age 46. Prior to, a healthy law enforcement official. Now an amateur FQ researcher, author, and blogger.

5 Responses

  1. Wendy W. says:

    I am a little over a year out from a reaction to Cipro and have been thinking about starting to walk again. I might try stationary biking first. Thanks

  2. lmccand says:

    Nice article. I have tried to go back to exercising, but I think I was trying to do too much too soon. I was a regular exerciser before Levaquin. I now have a hard time even doing simple stretching exercises. Anything aerobic is definitely out of the question, and strength training, which I loved before, I can’t even attempt.

  3. Cheryl Jarman says:

    I am just beginning to hear about this drug and the problems it causes. In the last 2 years I have gone from a very active life, walking my Siberian Husky ( a little running in there too) and a very physical job. I am still doing the job, it just takes a little longer to get up and down 3 levels of tooling that builds a 777 airliner. Anyway, my Dr. checked for arthritis in the knee and found absolutely nothing but gave me the cortisone injection anyway. I am now on Celebrex which is helping some but there are no pain free days. I had already had the plantar facsitis before and had found a product called “Susan’s joint and muscle ” It is an oil developed by a lady in Canada. I started using it on my knee and it has helped some also. I also had a feeling of having fleas biting me and a year ago did an extensive flea treatment on my house. It went away but is back now and my dog has no fleas so it must be associated with this drug. Have also had the Cipro. I seem to have a great sensitivity to generic drugs and constantly hear ” I’ve never heard of it doing that” from my Dr. He has always been an exceptional Doctor so I am still with him. Am considering going in and asking him what he knows about this and what tests need done to confirm that this is caused by the Levaquin. Good luck to all of you and if you have pain around the joints consider trying Susan’s oil. I also had carpal in both arms and have never had the surgery because I use the oil and used a night brace prescribed by my Doctor.

  4. Cheryl Jarman says:

    Forgot to mention in my previous post, I only took 3 days worth of the Levaquin because it caused severe itching on my scalp and I was advised to stop taking it. I am starting to try and find the time line between when I took it and when these “problems” started. I also am wearig special shoes “MBT” and these have stopped the pain running from my ankles to my knees when I walk.

  5. Art Spencer says:

    I am in 4th month since 4 Levaquin pills changed my life. I was a very physically active 59 year old, run and referee, and have had to back both of those down considerably. Went to sports medicene doctor today and she really could not help. I have the random pains, the prickling in my legs from the knees down, sore weak ankles, insomnia, loud popping knee and ankle joints, gastrointestinal issues, depersonalization and chronic fatigue. I am fighting through this stuff. Still running, very slowly. Backing off when I feel a twinge somewhere. Sometimes I think I am turning the corner and a couple hours or days later I am right back where I started. I am telling everyone I know about what I am going through. Thanks for the posts and the articles. The one on exercise let me know that what I am feeling is normal for being floxed. Thanks again. I might suggest Aquajogging if you have access to a pool. Google Aquajogger for equipment. It works great and is no pounding on your joints and you can go as slow as you want in the deep water. Great workout results.

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