HOW COLD SEA DIPS EASE MY MI­GRAINE: P7

Bangor Mail - - Front Page - Ly­dia Mor­ris

AWOMAN who suf­fered up to 25 de­bil­i­tat­ing mi­graines a month has told how swim­ming in the freez­ing sea helps cures the chronic pain.

Beth Fran­cis, who has suf­fered with se­vere headaches since the age of nine, was di­ag­nosed with chronic mi­graines in 2017.

On a bad day, the 27-year-old Ban­gor Univer­sity PhD stu­dent was usu­ally left bed bound with blurred vi­sion, ab­dom­i­nal pain, dizzi­ness, con­fu­sion and numb­ness to one side of her body.

As a re­sult, the marine bi­ol­o­gist liv­ing in Beau­maris had to take time out of her stud­ies, leav­ing her de­gree in jeop­ardy.

In a bid to take con­trol of the ill­ness, Beth and her part­ner An­drew Clark, 29, de­cided to reg­u­larly start tak­ing the plunge in the sea around An­gle­sey to see if it would help ease her symp­toms.

“We’ve al­ways been out­doorsy and my con­di­tion was tak­ing so much away from us be­cause we were in that pa­tient and carer role con­stantly,” she said.

“So in Oc­to­ber 2017, we both did a lit­tle bit of read­ing about cold wa­ter swim­ming and be­ing

ac­tive around the cold wa­ter and that’s when we de­cided to try it. It was some­thing we both wanted to do to im­prove our health and well­be­ing.”

Fol­low­ing in­cred­i­ble re­sults, Beth and film­maker An­drew be­gan film­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences, be­fore chal­leng­ing them­selves to take on a project named 100 Days of Vi­ta­min Sea.

They doc­u­mented each dip in the sea in a bid to share their re­search with oth­ers, which has now gone in­ter­na­tional. Their 100th swim took place last Sun­day, with swim­mers from around the world com­ing to Llanddona beach to cel­e­brate the event.

As soon as Beth be­gan the 100-day chal­lenge, she claims she im­me­di­ately went from hav­ing 25 at­tacks a month to 15.

She de­scribed her first en­counter in the cold wa­ter with a mi­graine as “amaze­ment”.

“About a minute af­ter get­ting into the wa­ter, the pain dropped to zero,” she added. “I was in shock and amaze­ment.

“It was a big sur­prise.

“I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it to com­pletely take the pain away, it was such a re­lief and it’s been to­tally lifechang­ing.

“They’re so de­bil­i­tat­ing that when I get a bad one, I can’t do any­thing ex­cept sit in a dark room. It can be scary. I’ve had them since I was a child and you never get used to them.”

While she found the pain can de­crease from a seven out of 10 to zero within a minute of be­ing in the wa­ter, other symp­toms in­clud­ing con­fu­sion, dizzi­ness and blurred eye­sight will not be cured.

She also con­tin­ues to take med­i­ca­tion to treat the pain of her mi­graines.

“I will still ex­pe­ri­ence other symp­toms of mi­graines, but tak­ing away the pain takes away the fear.

“It’s much eas­ier to deal with all the other symp­toms with­out any pain.

“The wa­ter is more ef­fec­tive than any med­i­ca­tion I’ve ever tried.”

She added: “I could be cry­ing my eyes out go­ing into the wa­ter be­cause of the pain, but I’d be com­ing out with a smile on my face.

“It’s changed our lives in so many ways and it’s al­lowed me to get back to my PhD.”

Beth’s quest for a cure has also earned the pair an in­ter­na­tional ac­co­lade for pa­tient-led ac­tion at the WEGO Health Awards and both are now in­volved in a re­search project, look­ing to ap­ply the ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits of cold wa­ter swim­ming to help other mi­graineurs.

What you need to know be­fore swim­ming in cold wa­ter (NHS):

Out­door swim­ming in cold wa­ter saps your body heat, so your arms and legs get weaker.

If this hap­pens, you could get into trou­ble if you’re un­able to get out of the wa­ter. Shiv­er­ing and teeth chat­ter­ing are the first symp­toms of hy­pother­mia. If that hap­pens, get out and warm up.

If you’re not used to swim­ming in cold wa­ter: Wear a wet­suit for any­thing more than a quick dip.

Don’t jump into cold wa­ter – wade in slowly in­stead.

Swim close to the shore. Take warm clothes to put on af­ter­wards – even in sum­mer you’ll feel colder when you get out.

Take ex­tra care in reser­voirs, which are deeper and colder than lakes and rivers.

● Beth Fran­cis swims in the sea to help cure chronic pain

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