Optic Neuritis and Exercise Guidelines

Optic Neuritis and Exercise. Sometimes it's difficult to even think about working out when you're going blind! Since I’ve been dealing with a chronic case of optic neuritis for almost eight months…my exercise habits have been quite compromised. It has been interesting to see the wide variety of opinions I’ve gotten on guidelines for exercising with an inflamed optic nerve.

When I asked my Neuro-Opthamologist what I could and couldn’t do I was told, “No Restrictions.”

Really??? I can do anything I want? “Yes!” I can do Pilates, run, lift weights, swim, inline skate, indoor skydiving, racquetball…no limitations??? “No Limitations!” This had me feeling pretty good. Confident that I might be able to manage my flare, keep my sanity, and perhaps not gain two tons while on steroids. Then I went to my primary care physician... who happens to be a D.O. and normally does more manipulations to keep my body tuned-up, rather than dealing with medical care issues. And we got to chatting about exercise and steroids. Because prior to this Optic Neuritis issue, my body had been doing pretty well, better than usual in fact, and I commented that I was pretty sure it was the weight lifting program I had been doing that was making the difference. My D.O’s recommendations: “You need to be very careful with the amounts of weight you are lifting. Because of the high dosage of Prednisone that you are on, there is an increased risk that you might actually tear your tendons and ligaments away from the bones. High impact activities like running also need to be modified to avoid injury right now.” Yikes!!! There’s something to scare one into a super light-weight program, or avoid exercise altogether. And this is information that I had never heard before. Then from my 25+ years of experience as a coach, personal trainer, and Pilates Teacher, the guidelines I have always followed, are to avoid upside down exercises if someone had an eye problem.

With Optic Neuritis, the Exercise Guidelines I received spanned the gamut from:

  • Do anything you want


  • Avoid lifting heavy weights and high impact activities.
My response has been to listen to my body and do what I feel is right at the moment. Some days I seem to be able to push myself a little harder, other days I barely have the energy to go for a 20 minute slow walk. I’m staying right-side up most of the time, because when I go upside down, I usually notice increased pressure in my head and a decrease in my vision. I suppose that exercising with Optic Neuritis is like dealing with any other sort of medical issue. If we can get the right information, make sensible choices, and listen to our bodies, chances are, we’ll be doing the right things and be able to continue doing something that’s good for our body, mind, and spirit while we’re dealing with a hiccup in our health. ***** I would love to hear from other folks who have had Optic Neuritis and learn what exercise guidelines and recommendations you were given to follow during a flare.

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


Posted by: Aliesa George

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