According to doctors from the United Kingdom, a 28-year-old man who had been complaining of persistent, post-operative pain was cured after jumping into incredibly cold water for a vigorous 60-second, intense swim. Roughly two months prior to his swim, the man had undergone an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy procedure to treat his severe facial blushing. In this procedure, a portion of the sympathetic nerve trunk is destroyed to treat excessive sweating, blushing and Raynaud’s disease.
The operation went smoothly, but nagging, sharp pain in his chest continued for 10 weeks after the operation. Exercise and movement tended to make things worse, which was bad news for the patient, who has a devoted triathlete. Doctors tried analgesics and other means to control pain with limited success, and when things didn’t work, the patient took a leap of faith.
In a bold attempt to take his mind of pain, the patient decided to go for a swim in the coastal waters of a past triathlon competition. His route was along a rocky, jagged coastline; therefore, there was no dipping his toes in to acclimate to the water. The man had to jump from a rocky outcrop.
“I wasn’t sure if it would help the pain—I just wanted to do it—I thought at best it was a long-shot, but I was desperate to get some relief,” the man told doctors.
When his body slapped into seawater that was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, he had no choice but to swim for safety, or risk hypothermia. He told doctors:
“I initially thought, ‘Damn this is so cold I’m going to die!’ I just swam for my life. Once I was in the water, I had tunnel vision. For the first time in months, I completely forgot about the pain or the fear of shooting pains in my chest if I moved. My entire body tingled with the cold. I just knew if I didn’t keep swimming, I’d soon freeze. After a few moments I actually enjoyed it – it was just an immersive rush of adrenaline. I bet I couldn’t have felt my pain, even if I tried.”
The funny thing is, his pain never returned.
Photo by electrees