HOW COLD SEA DIPS EASE MY MIGRAINE: P7
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