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Man Relieved His Postoperative Pain by Swimming In Cold Water

Armen Hareyan's picture
Pain relief through swimming in Cold Water

Is it possible to heal one's pain with cold water? Apparently, it's possible to relieve post-operative pain through swimming in cold water.


A 28-year-old man who suffered from postoperative pain was convinced that he could heal himself through swimming in cold water. Through this technique, he was able to cure his pain when nothing else worked. His experience and the associated report are published in the BMJ Case Reports.

Researchers at Cambridge University, supervised by Dr. Tom Mole, are studying the case. If it turns out to work on other patients, this alternative to powerful painkillers and physiotherapy would be a big step forward in postoperative treatments.

Note, however, that swimming in cold water is not suitable for everyone and involves many risks. Do not try this alone and without the consent of a doctor!

Swim or Die?

The man behind this story is 28 years old. While suffering from excessive facial redness, he underwent an operation (endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy) that cut off the triggering nerves in his chest.

Although the operation went perfectly, he subsequently suffered severe and persistent pain. He used conventional treatments that did not seem to affect him or heal the pain. He also attended physiotherapy sessions, but his pain worsened, which pushed him to stop the rehabilitation.

Being a triathlete before his operation, the young man made a radical decision to swim in cold water to relieve the pain.

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He challenged himself to swim for about a minute in cold water. This challenge stimulated him, as he explained to the authors of the report: "I first thought 'damn it, it's so cold that I'm going to die!' so I just swam for my life."

The Fear of Drowning

The coldness of the water around him made him forget his pain as he said, "Once in the water, I had tunnel vision - for the first time in months, I completely forgot the pain or the fear of pain in my chest if I moved. My whole body tingled. I just knew that if I did not continue to swim, I would finally freeze. After a few moments, I really enjoyed the adrenaline rush.”

He stated that, miraculously, after the swim, “I realized that the neuropathic pain was gone. I could not believe it," reports Science and Avenir.

This is the first documented case of pain relief with cold water bathing, although cold baths are commonly used in sports medicine to relieve wounds.

Also, see the 8 benefits of swimming and other water-based exercises.

Among the possible explanations for this, most likely, spontaneous healing, would be that the shock of sudden immersion in cold water and the fear of drowning could have brought about a wave of activity in the nervous system and an altered level of consciousness that would have led to an alteration of the perception of pain.

If you were to undergo surgery, do you think you would be brave enough to swim in cold water? What are your thoughts on this study, and this man’s bold action? Please let us know your thoughts!

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What's the cause of pain? If the pain is due to inflamed nerves then I can see that cold water would help. I think this could lead to a very new pain treatment methodology. Interesting.
Very interesting, but I would like to know the answers to these questions about his post-operative pain. A. How long did the pain relief last? B. How frequently would he choose to swim for this purpose? C. How minimally cold must the water be to produce this effect? D. Must he avoid heating the body up too quickly afterward, or IOW, must the body remain in a state of uniterrupted coldness for a particular period of time, even after leaving the cold waters? Good for this young man, that he found some pain relief that didn’t fully rely on drugs that may become addictive.