Snorkeling With Fibromyalgia And Muscle Cramping

by Debbie
(Bolingbrook, IL)

Can I go snorkeling with fibromyalgia and muscle cramping? I get tired and sore very easy. I am hoping to go to Tulum, Mexico in February 2015.

I have started to swim in the therapy pool with the swim fins on and my legs and feet cramp up real quick. I thought a life vest would let me float when this happened.

Also my mouth gets sore right away from holding onto the snorkel mouthpiece.

Does anyone have any suggestions to make it more enjoyable? I won't let my fibromyalgia stop me from snorkeling.

Comments for Snorkeling With Fibromyalgia And Muscle Cramping

Click here to add your own comments

Sep 23, 2014
Be careful!
by: Nicole & Galen

Hello Debbie, we want to warn you that cramping up while snorkeling can be terribly dangerous. You are most of the time out in open ocean where the conditions can change in moments and you need to be able to swim strongly at any time. Yes, a life-vest will keep you floating, but it won't keep you from being carried away by a strong current. So, please be very careful if you do go snorkeling. Also make sure to read our Beginning Snorkeler Tips.

As for the snorkel being painful to hold in your mouth, the only other option we can think of is there are kick-boards with windows in them so you can look down through it and see what is under you. Your head is not underwater. But the board still requires to you be able to kick strongly.

Hopefully someone with first hand experience can offer other suggestions.

Sep 23, 2014
So sorry
by: Adam Thompson

I do NOT want to be the one to discourage anyone from snorkeling, but I feel like I should caution you.

Snorkeling involves swimming in the open ocean, sometimes with currents, dangerous marine life, or other challenges. People do die while snorkeling - a handful of people die every year in the Florida Keys while snorkeling.

Sometimes these people are even people in good health who are good swimmers. If you're not a good swimmer or you're not in good health, you're taking on significant added risk, because you'll have difficulty coping if something goes wrong.

I recommend that you only go snorkeling if you're able to swim (in the open ocean, with currents) a significant distance to get back to the boat or shore if anything goes wrong.

Sep 23, 2014
I Take Potassium & Magnesium
by: Pat from San Diego

I know just what you mean! Stay in the relatively calmer waters near shore but out of the wave wash zone, and have your snorkel buddy aware of your issues to tow you to safety if the need arises. You'll have to keep safety your top priority, but should still be able to enjoy a good leisurely snorkel and hang out in the water, mask down, marveling at the creatures there. Snorkeling doesn't have to be exhausting, the best stuff isn't necessarily farther out, down, or around the corner!

I always had that cramping problem, but couldn't let it stop me from my absolute favorite past-time! Here's what I learned. I take potassium and magnesium supplements and drink plenty of water. I am not able to take most supplements so my doctor suggested coconut water, which I take straight out of the coconut. YUM!
I had fibromyalgia until I went on an elimination diet protocol and learned that for me, wheat, corn, soy, nightshades, and most oils were causing the pain, inflammation, and sleep issues. As long as I keep a "clean diet" I don't have fibromyalgia anymore. Period!

It is pretty difficult while traveling, however, which is when a person gets to snorkel! So after eating in restaurants, I get symptoms returning. That's where the coconut water comes in so handy.

Also I use a jacuzzi after every snorkel, or a bath w/epsom salts or a box of baking soda.

Have a wonderful snorkeling time! Yay!

Sep 24, 2014
Snorkel mouthpiece
by: Tom Turner

Hi Debbie. I don't know anything about fibromyalgia, but thought that I could help regarding the mouthpiece comment. My wife and I snorkel for hours at a time, and found that our jaw muscles would get sore from holding the mouthpiece, especially in rough water. We found the "Comfort Cushion Pillow Bite" mouthpiece, manufactured by Innovative Scuba Concepts, to be a great improvement on the fatigue. You just remove the mouthpiece that comes on your snorkel, replace it with this, and we found that it helps tremendously. Hope this helps.

Oct 08, 2014
Akumal and Yal-ku but with a warning
by: David in Toronto

If you are near Tulum, then you should snorkel at Akumal Beach and also visit the Yal-Ku Lagoon.

The lagoon is very narrow, so if an emergency arises, you will be only a few fin flips from the shore. Akumal Beach has amazing coral quite close to the shore.

For your own safety, please swim with a snorkel vest on. Yes, you might still be swept out to sea, but hopefully somebody will see you and your head will be above the water. This said, if you are not a strong swimmer, is snorkeling really for you?

Nov 04, 2014
Maybe this will help
by: Barbara

Hi Debbie, just wanted to share some info that may help you. I have medical issues, but my biggest issue is fear! And I am not a strong swimmer, but some how have managed to enjoy snorkeling.

I agree with others that snorkeling in the open water can be an issue, and something I avoid. I like calm waters, usually just off the shore. My husband is a strong swimmer, so if I ever do venture out just a bit outside my typical comfort zone, I have him with me.

But even with him or alone, I bring two noodles (the foam cylinder shaped ones sold for about 1$ each) from home. They can be rolled up and fit in typical luggage. The two are tied together with some thick rope (like for boating). Usually tied at 3 spots. The center rope is left long so I can coil it up and hold it or - and this is the helpful part for you - long enough so I can be pulled by my husband, and not drift away. I hope you are following this - it is hard to describe in words.

The two noodles can also be used under my body, at the shoulders or stomach area, to keep me floating and let me rest without much effort. If I do get a cramp (which I do), I find that I can keep floating, not feel like I am drowning, and let the cramp work its way out. I can also turn over onto my back and rest on the noodles to wait for a cramp to relax.

I wear a snorkel vest too, but that alone does not help me keep my head out of the water. Another option is putting a "typical" life jacket on (the kind that is simple, typical for boats, usually orange, sort of "old fashioned", referred to as PFD Type II Life Jacket, no zipper, has strap), and tie around my waist. It helps me float. I have done this when snorkeling off a boat. THIS IS NOT HOW TO USE THIS LIFE VEST PROPERLY.

I was once told that I needed to learn to kick with my knees straight, or almost straight, so that I used my entire leg to kick to help reduce cramping. The thigh is what needs to be involved in the kicking - it has bigger, stronger muscles than the lower leg, which would be used if the knees are bent.

I found that I needed a special smaller mouthpiece, made for a child. I have found these at dive shops.

Watch what fins you are using. I use booties and then fins that are the open kind. The full boot/foot style ones (for me) are very uncomfortable, and hard to keep on my feet, which seems to make me cramp more.

I hope you are able to enjoy yourself. Let us know!

Nov 06, 2014
Wear a good life vest & Stay in calm waters
by: Kate

Hi Debbie, I recommend wearing a life jacket. I have one that I take with me on trips. It has a larger opening around the arms -- maybe it’s for kayakers -- so there’s more freedom of movement. This frees up a lot of energy because you don’t have to worry about staying afloat, which I notice I have trouble with when I don’t wear the life jacket. I don’t recommend the inflatable life jackets because I’ve ended up with one that wouldn’t stay inflated. Not good to have this happen when you’re already out in the water. But with the life jacket, I can easily right myself in the water in a sitting-like position if I need to rest, catch my breath, adjust my mask, etc.

I also wear some type of covering, usually a wetsuit. As long as I can stay warm and as long as I can stay afloat, I think it increases my chances of survival if I find myself in a pickle.

But there have been occasions when I’ve found myself needing to respond quickly to some danger, like being pulled closely to some turbulent area that has big rocks, and I have to use strength in my legs to move away. This is difficult for me because my legs are weak and I have chronic fatigue, but somehow the adrenaline kicks in and I’m able to do it (I don’t have problems with muscle cramping). If you have these sorts of strength issues, it’s best to stay in calmer waters where you don’t have to worry about this problem as much.

If you happen to go on an organized snorkeling tour, usually the guides are strong swimmers and can help to keep an eye on you. One time on a tour in Mexico when the current was strong and I wasn’t able to get back to the boat, I grabbed onto some rope that the guide had so I could be pulled back to the boat. Another time in some rough waters on another tour (in Thailand), I just bobbed in the water hanging onto the rope that was attached to the boat and didn’t even try to venture away from the boat.

Because the rougher waters are more challenging, it’s not my favorite type of snorkeling. My favorite snorkeling is right next to the shore in a protected bay. Or on a shallow reef area that might be further out (but in these cases, I would be with a group of people).

Also soaking in a hot tub afterwords helps my muscles recover.

Snorkeling is truly awesome. It’s really magical, and if you can find a way to do it that feels safe for you and with a realistic knowledge of and respect for your physical challenges, then I would go for it!

Nov 13, 2014
Snorkeling with fibromyalgia
by: Tammy

I have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Until recently, snorkeling was the only sport I could do with my active husband. I have also been able to start biking in the last year. I wear a shortie wetsuit to stay warm (even in Hawaii). I stay in calm, safe water close to shore, wear shorter fins, and would NEVER go out without a strong swimming partner. I absolutely love this sport that allows me to be active outside! I'm always the last one who wants to quit and head back to shore. So, don't give up, follow the excellent advice of previous comments and get out there! :^)

Jan 31, 2015
February in Tulum
by: Cheryl

I was wondering the same thing, thanks for asking the question.

We will be in Tulum Feb 10-18. When are you going?

Hope we both have a great time. Good luck.

Jan 31, 2015
Getting ready for Tulum
by: Debbie

I want to thank everyone for your kind comments and suggestions. I will be leaving for Tulum on Feb 20th. I bought a travel size pair of swim fins and have been going to the therapy pool and working out with them. So far so good. Hardly any foot cramping.

Also bought a pair of light weight swim socks to protect my feet a little more.

I am also going to investigate a snorkel vest and or some other flotation device.

I also investigated a no bite mouth piece. To get it already on the snorkel tube is about $40.00 in the store in my area. Will do some more investigating.

I also have some alternative plans if the ocean is too rough. Xel-ha is a nature theme park in the area. They have snorkeling and a bunch of other water and animal encounters. Swimming with the turtles in Akumal sounds like it is in a calmer bay-like area. No matter what, I plan on having a wonderful adventure. I will keep you posted.

Jan 31, 2015
In Tulum?
by: David in Toronto

The best snorkeling that I experienced in the area is Akumal. It's very close to where you will be and very doable if you rent a car for a day or hire a cab. It's well worth it. Yal Ku Lagoon is a wonderful gentle snorkel with many fish to see. Make a day of it and arrive at the main beach between 9:30 and 10:00 am to swim with sea turtles who show up like clockwork to feed on the turtle grass. Set out right in front of the Akumal Dive Shop. Afterwards have lunch at one of the great little restaurants on the square - then head up to Yal-Ku for your afternoon swim. You'll sleep well that night.

Do you own a snorkel vest? If not I'd suggest you get one.

Dec 28, 2016
Full face snorkel mask
by: Havilah Helen

Hi there,
Lots of good safety advice here.
Just a thought with the snorkel causing fatigue - have you seen the full face snorkel masks before? It's an all in one. You might find it useful. I have just ordered one for myself to try out...

Dec 28, 2016
Thanks Helen
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Helen, thank you for that idea! Mouth fatigue is a great reason to use a full face snorkel mask.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Snorkeling Health Stories and Q&A.



[?]Get Our RSS Feed
Read more about Galen & Nicole
Check out these world-class guided snorkeling travel opportunities.