Cold Water Swimming for neuropathic pain

I have been having neuropathic pain due to the recurrence of my Squamous Cell Carcinoma in the floor of my mouth. The pain has been pretty bad - radiating into my ear and in an arc above my ear. Despite being on strong painkillers eating is still very sore.
On the positive side I have discovered that swimming in cold water (<10C) for a minimum of 10 minutes gets rid of the pain for up to 2-3 hours. After 750M in 2.9C the pain disappeared for over 3 hours. I am not sure of the mechanism - perhaps flooding of the nervous system with other stimuli in line with the pain gate theory but why would the freedom from pain continue after I have warmed up? Also it is more than the endorphin rush from the cold because I can get that rush in 5mins at these temperatures but not get as much freedom from the pain. Also standing in a cold shower does not seem to do it either. Is it something to do with exercising in water of that temperature, (do I need to run around in the shower?)
Has anyone else any experience of cold water swimming helping with neuropathic pain? I would be grateful for any thoughts....


  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USMember
    edited January 2018

    I am reading In Cold Water by Mike Humphreys (page 93) and saw this. Perhaps it's related to what you've experienced? Sue Pepper is an OW swimmer with MS who has swum EC relays.

    “The open-sea training, however, was a revelation. The cold water actually helped Sue’s MS! No matter her state when she got to Dover, whether her weak leg was failing or she was blacking out, the cold saltwater changed everything. Sue would leave the thick Dover Harbor water with increased strength, flexibility, and mobility – and she’d experience no MS symptoms for days.”


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • Have been searching for information from Google Scholar but the only thing I can find on this relates more to dementia that neuropathic pain. Looks interesting though although does not seem to have reported as yet.

    If anyone else has any info I would be grateful to hear from you.

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USMember

    Daily Mail article entitled: In pain? Try an ice-cold dip: Doctors say swimming in cold water could be an alternative to strong painkillers

    Short summary: A 28 year old male triathlete had minor key hole (arthroscopic?) surgery of the chest to "reduce extreme and involuntary blushing of his face." It caused "debilitating pain for 10 weeks... he decided to jump from a rocky outcrop into the sea ‘as distraction’." The water was "ice-cold" (no temperature given, unfortunately), and when he got out his neuropathic pain was gone and didn't come back.


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

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