Ice baths and cold river swimming

Posted May 18, 2021

Carin holding ice above her head in the water

My name is Carin. I grew up here in Massachusetts, I was an avid backpacker and through-hiker, ecologist, explorer, traveler, dancer, and a hard worker. Now, I’m lucky if I can complete 200 steps in a single day.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2017, it is a chronic condition that inflicts widespread pain, fatigue, and general muscular soreness and weakness. Back then, I used to notice a little stiffness in my joints and I felt fatigued and achy for a week or so at a time. Each flare since then has gotten worse. By the summer of 2019, I was in constant muscular pain.

I experience a 10 on the pain scale at least once a day, every day. I also have to use a mobility aid at least once a day, every day.

In January of 2021, I was additionally diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS). This condition also causes widespread pain and fatigue. I sprain and misalign joints daily.

The worst of the pain will ‘flare up’, due to stress, weather changes, hormonal changes, diet, If one of these “flare-ups” is really nasty, it renders me immobile and bedridden, and in extreme pain.

Life f*cking hurts.

I’m only 26 years old.

After months of useless doctors, frustrating trials of medications with side effects, and no improvement in my original symptoms, I called out of work too many times and I lost my job.

Now, my life is about one thing: Pain relief.

Then my Chiropractor mentioned Wim Hof, an eccentric Dutchman promoting a healing regimen of breathwork, cold water therapy, and commitment. This *clicked* for me. I am no stranger to the cold, I grew up swimming in these same icy brooks and rivers, I’ve had jobs that included working high up in trees in any weather, and I’ve always loved winter camping. What I didn’t know is the extent to which swimming- or ‘dipping’- myself in an icy river or ice bath would help my symptoms across the board.

I started swimming daily at the end of October 2020 and I quickly became obsessed both with the enjoyment of swimming daily, an activity I’ve always loved and with the immediate reduction of many of my worst symptoms.

Moreover, it is joyous, extreme, competitive, challenging, exciting, and pleasurable. When I enter the water the pain melts away, icing down all those poor constantly firing nerves. These moments of freedom from pain have given me a new life, and I am thriving in the cold.

I will be using my Instagram account @swimawaythepain to detail the highs and lows of my life with these chronic illnesses, the benefits and joys of cold water therapy, and the emotional and mental battles I fight every day. I’d love to connect with ice swimmers and chronic illness warriors alike, anyone who thinks cold water therapy might be their ticket to a new level of life!

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