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Pain Reduction for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis Sufferers

Heat therapy using "total-body hyperthermia" has been a popular treatment since Hippocratic times and widely used in different parts of the world. A recent study by the Saxion University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands (SUAS) has shown that the use of an infrared sauna significantly helped patients suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). The results showed a decrease in fatigue, pain and stiffness.

The study aimed to answer the following questions:

  1. Does an infrared sauna have positive effects on body structures and functions such as stiffness, pain and fatigue?
  2. What is the general effect of an infrared sauna on social participation and on physical activities?
  3. Are there any noticeable side-effects regarding patient comfort, tolerance and disease activity during the infrared sauna treatment?
Joint affected with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Normal joint compared to a joint affected with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Source: National Institute of Health, Department of Health and Human Services

Heating your way to Health

Seventeen AS patients and seventeen RA patients were treated over a 4-week period in 8 different infrared sauna sessions. The results demonstrated that during the infrared sauna session, pain and stiffness decreased significantly, and the improvements were ‘statistically significant'. It was also shown that fatigue decreased while the pain, stiffness and fatigue also showed clinical improvement during the 4-week treatment period.

Importantly, no side-effects of the infrared sauna treatment were reported and no relevant changes in the disease activity score were found. These results demonstrate that pain and stiffness were reduced while the disease showed no sign of being exacerbated. Both the RA and AS patients, on average, felt comfortable both during and after the treatment. In fact, 59% felt comfortable and 29.4% felt very comfortable after treatment.

Joint affected with Rheumatoid Arthritis
Process of Ankylosing Spondylitis (Source: Gray's Anatomy)

Study Findings

The SUAS showed that RA and AS patients treated using an infrared sauna showed statistically significant short-term beneficial effects and clinically relevant effects for the duration of the study. Additionally, infrared treatment had no adverse effects and the patients showed good tolerability to the total-body heat treatment.

The study noted that an infrared sauna provides a compact and user-friendly "whole-body hyperthermia" treatment. The clinics personal experience for AS and RA out-patients was promising with less pain and improved physical functionality. No aggravation or inflammation activity was noted. Other effects included a significant weight loss of between 0.1kg and 0.4kg after treatment. Diastolic and Systolic blood pressure also showed a small decrease.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease causing inflammation of the joints. The disease causes the body’s antibodies to attack tissues in the body.
  • RA affects 0.8% of the UK population, close to 5 million people.
  • RA is three time more common in women than in men.

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a condition which is an inflammation and fusing together of the bones of the spine.
  • About 1 in 1,000 people in the UK have AS, close to 61,000 people.


Further Reading & Study Report:
  • Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis: A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects. F.G.J. Oosterveld et al. Clin Rheumatol (2009) 28:29-34.
  • http://hcd2.bupa.co.uk/fact_sheets/html/ankylosing_Spondylitis.html

Note: Di Vapor is not responsible for the views, opinions or advice represented in the articles on this site. You are advised to seek medical advice before following any such information. Copyright © 2009 Di Vapor.



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