Swimming in cold water might give an alternative for pain killers. A study reported in Journal BMJ Case states that, A short, sharp, cold water swim may offer an alternative to strong painkillers and physiotherapy to relieve severe persistent pain after surgery. Doctors carried out a surgical procedure (endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy) on a 28 year old man to curb his excessive facial flushing.
The procedure itself was successful, but 10 weeks later, the usual postoperative prescription of strong painkillers and staged physiotherapy had barely made a dent in the severity of his pain. The man explained that exercise and movement just made the pain worse, preventing him from completing his rehabilitation and recovery. According to the case study, the surgery entailed cutting the triggering nerves inside his chest.
The 28-year-old man who suffered from post-operative pain found it disappeared totally after doing an open water swim. However, cold water swimming does not suit everyone and entails risks. The man had been a keen triathlete prior to his operation and had found conventional treatments had made little difference to his severe pain.
Author Dr Tom Mole, from the University of Cambridge, said he hopes that it “gives new hope to people recovering from pain after surgery”. The man, who suffered from excessive facial flushing, underwent an operation (endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy) that cut the triggering nerves inside his chest. The surgery went well but afterwards he suffered from severe, persistent pain which caused him a “great deal of distress”.
“Due to the nature of retrospective case reports, it is unclear, without further evidence, whether the exposure to forced cold water swimming is causally and specifically related to pain remission,” said the authors, who caution that this is only one case report. However, given the time frame and the absence of any alternative explanations other than pure chance, it seems as if the cold water plunge might have afforded some instant pain relief – at least in this case, they said.
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