In a recent article we considered the interesting case, reported in the British Medical Journal, of a man whose neuropathic pain was apparently cured by a cold water plunge.
Now, the BBC has reported the case of a woman who is successfully controlling debilitating migraines with a daily cold water swim. Beth Francis from Anglesey in North Wales told the BBC:
“In the May of 2017, I began having two or three a week, lasting upwards of six hours at a time.
“I was in my first year of a PhD in marine biology at Bangor University. But I began losing days of work.
“My migraines escalated throughout the summer, swelling to 28 attacks per month and I became so unwell that even taking a few months off work didn’t help.
“These weren’t just headaches. They would cause tremendous pain and sensitivity to light and sounds.
“I would have tinnitus, blind spots, nausea, stomach aches and sometimes become completely numb on one side.”
Connecting with nature
As conventional treatments had not provided any relief from her condition, she decided “to see if I could regain some health by connecting more with nature.” With her partner she therefore set herself the challenge of swimming in the cold sea off Anglesey, without a wetsuit, for 100 days through the winter. “Perhaps I’d even be able to shock my body into feeling better and use the cold water as an analgesic?” And the approach has paid off:
“People might think it an odd way to combat migraines, but the change in me has been amazing.
“Sometimes, I have dragged myself out of bed, eyes half closed, already suffering from a migraine, in order to complete my daily task.
“But whenever this has happened, I have found the pain of migraine has dramatically reduced in severity afterwards.
“My overall health has improved, and I now have about 16 migraines a month, nearly half the amount compared to when they were at their peak, and the effects aren’t as debilitating.
“They might last for four or five hours, as opposed to wiping out a whole day.”
As to what mechanisms may be at work here, the article quotes Simon Evans, chief executive of Migraine Action:
“While there is no direct evidence that swimming in cold water can help relieve a migraine attack, the reported use of ice mixtures in pain relief in migraine goes back to Victorian times.
“Various methods of cold and ice application have been reported on in the medical literature in recent decades with a number of theories as to why they may work.”