Could exercise be worsening the underlying cause of myoclonic seizures?
August 9, 2013 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Could exercise be worsening the underlying cause of myoclonic seizures?

You are not my doctor. I am seeing specialists next week.

I have had myoclonic seizures for a number of years. No cause has ever been found. They got more frequent a few months ago when I began doing 1 hour of cardio a day to reduce chronic back pain.

Yesterday, the nurse recommended I stop exercising but wouldn't go into detail as to why or how the exercise could be making things worse. Could the exercise be exacerbating the underlying cause of the seizures?

If I'm not doing permanent damage to my nervous system I'd like to continue to exercise over the weekend because although the seizures are annoying, the benefit from exercise is greater. I haven't decided whether or not to do so.

I'm not going to act on any advice given here. I just don't know how to research this question and I'm worried and restless.
posted by vincele to Health & Fitness (3 answers total)
Hmmm, that's an interesting question. I don't know what your neurologist is thinking specifically, as I don't know your story (IAAE, IANYE), but with certain types of myoclonic epilepsies, such as juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, there seems to be data out there that exercise is beneficial both from a cardiovascular standpoint and that it may actually transiently reduce EEG abnormalities in the recovery period.

However, on the flipside, mitochondrial disorders/dysfunctions that can cause myoclonic epilepsy, which I doubt you have, would possibly be worsened by exercise.

All that being said, if your seizure control is worsening for unclear reasons, the idea might be to get things back under control from a safety perspective; you don't want to have a lot of myoclonic seizures or a generalized tonic-clonic seizure while on a treadmill or in a pool, perhaps. The safety issues of epilepsy are not solely limited to damage to neurons.

Like I said, I don't know! But it did give me a few minutes of thought, so it's not an obvious answer (to someone who doesn't know your full medical history).
posted by vetala at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I have no idea about myoclonic seizures and whether this would relate at all.

However, I hurt my back circa 2010, and my doctor diagnosed (but didn't confirm because I never took an EMG), that I had compressed a nerve or sustained slight nerve damage somehow. It was not the pain of sciatica. It was an odd, buzzing ache in my tailbone and hips, that made bending really difficult. After a few weeks of this, it was followed by muscle spasms in my legs, pretty much all the time. It was very painful, but it wasn't excruciating. It was an odd kind of ache. As in a lot of nerve pain, NSAIDs did not work on it at all. It got a lot worse before it finally started to get gradually better.

In my case, exercise-- namely the flexing of the part I suspect was being compressed--absolutely exacerbated the problem. Made my back hurt more, made my tailbone ache and set my healing back. After a while, I just took it easy on my back, and it started to slowly heal on its own. But even now, either walking a lot, or wearing high-heels can result in intermittent tiny muscle spasms in my legs, even though the back-pain is long gone. I presume because something about my posture in heels, pinches or some such. It took over two years for me to fully heal, and even now I'd say I'm only 99%. I am not how I was before I hurt my back. I get the odd tailbone twinge. I am resigned to the fact it will probably always be that way.

I am not sure if cardio is the cause for the increased frequency of the seizures, but given things like this are not fully understood and possibly inter-related, it totally could be, and I thought I'd share my story. I am not sure if I was doing permanent damage, but as far as I understand it, compressing the same nerve over and over can result in that, yes.

There are lots of ways to do cardio; some were worse than others for me. For me, making sure I wasn't exercising in a way that bent my back a lot, helped. That meant no more hip-hop dancing for a while. In addition, gentle back stretches (things like stepping on your toes and reaching and lengthening your back) helped and trying to be aware of my posture. So could you maybe change the type of cardio? Something gentler? Bike or elliptical instead of aerobics, or something like that?

Good luck.
posted by Dimes at 12:27 PM on August 9, 2013

*Forgot to mention that although I never had an EMG, it was partly because I first had an xray of my hips and pelvis, and then an ultrasound, and they were both 100% fine. Hence why through elimination and the other symptoms, that was diagnosed.
posted by Dimes at 12:34 PM on August 9, 2013

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