Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not the same as osteoarthritis, it is not in just 1 or 2 joints. Yes, osteoarthritis pain is improved with Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC), but this is not what I’m referring to here. Here I am writing about an autoimmune disease that is on both sides of your body in small and large joints, weight bearing or not. It gets worse and better, inflamed and painful with deformities at the joints from this inflammation and body responses. The flare-ups, the painful movement and some days the inability to work because you cannot handle it. It’s the one where your body, for some reason, hates its self, and it sucks.
There is no known cure for RA, it is all about pain management and reducing symptoms. There is an addition to effective therapies on the Sunshine Coast that can improve your pain, reduce symptoms and assist in greater results in conjunction with your Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists.
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) was created for the treatment of Rheumatoid Athritis in the 1970’s! WBC is made for helping RA! It decreases pain and improves associated symptoms. Now it is found to treat inflammation in general, muscle recovery, depression, support your immune system, and increase the quality of sleep.
Studies are in their early times with WBC and RA. But the outlook is positive. Metzger et al. concluded that the use of cryogenic temperature produces a considerable effect of pain reduction, which creates good conditions for exercise and occupational therapy.1 Dr. Benkenstein supported this and concluded that after an average of 10-15 sessions of WBC – pain associated with RA was reduced and range of motion increased. Patients experienced a substantial relief of symptoms and less inflammation in the body. It was further substantiated by Buena et al. with the conclusion “Thus, whole-body cryotherapy is an effective option in the concept of treatment of inflammatory rheumatic diseases. The relief of pain allows an intensification of physiotherapy. A significant reduction of pain over a period of 2 months could be shown.”2
With this reduction of pain and improvement of symptoms – in many cases – there has been a reduction of pain management medication. If this is one of your goals, WBC is definitely an effective therapy to add to your RA treatment.
If you are looking for WBC to stand alone to help your RA and stop other movement therapies, think again. It is important to note that WBC has these results in conjunction with physical therapies. Yes, it will reduce your pain, but if you are looking for a big difference, use it with physical exercise or therapy.
The biological difference WBC has is the reduction of histamines is great for RA. Histamine is the molecule that activates synovial mast cells – stimulating further joint inflammation and pain. Wojtecka-Lukasik et al. confirm that the beneficial clinical effects of whole-body cryotherapy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis are in part, due to the action on the processes of production, release, and the degradation of histamine.3
The compounding effect of strategic WBC sessions, with a range of motion and exercise therapies, results in a significant pain reduction and increase in the range of movement.
The speed external fluid is moved and processed with WBC is faster than in any other therapy. Your body is tricked into the flight or fight reflex. It shunts your fluids – including interstitial, synovial and blood – to your organs for processing within 3 minutes. This is another way to clear out the joints and sore muscles for recovery. When your body warms and returns to normal outside temperature, the fluids start to flow back, but this time they are “cleaner”, they have more oxygen and enzymes to repair and fight inflammation.
Having an autoimmune disease is challenging, there is no way out, it is here to stay. I know the feeling. I have Type 1 diabetes. There is no cure, all you can do is manage it the best you can and live your life. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me at all, but there are times it gets me a little bitter, clouded and depressed… AND I don’t even have the pain or joint issues people have in RA. I can’t imagine what that is like!
Another benefit of WBC is the emotional change that happens with a session. Via the same fight and flight response of the fluid shunting, endorphins are released. Endorphins are the happy hormone. Happy hormones are good anytime, but in challenging times, they can really help get us back out into a more positive state to get moving. It was found in the study Whole-body cryotherapy as adjunct treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders that “A positive effect was already observable after one week of treatment and improvements continued to be significant over the whole three-week cycle of cryotherapy.”4
Quality sleep is something that helps with pain tolerance, mood and productivity. Sleep is improved with WBC through all the aspects I have talked about here. If you want to see in more detail how this happen click here to read our blog on Improve Sleep & Performance with Whole Body Cryotherapy.
To sum it all up the benefits of WBC in the treatment of RA are:
- Reduction in pain and swelling due to inflammation
- Improvement in overall health and well being
- Improvement in joint function and range of motion
- Reduction in medication intake related to pain and inflammation
- Improved sleep
- Better emotional health.
I have outlined many reasons to add WBC to your treatment regimen for RA, and here are a few more facts:
- It is non-invasive
- It is a holistic treatment
- It has no side effects
- Can be less costly than other therapies
- You are in control of the session the whole time
- IT TAKES 3 MIN!
If you have been looking for something to support your recovery, manage flare-ups and improve your pain then book a series of sessions today. There is nothing to lose.
- D. Metzger, C. Zwingmann, W. Protz, and W. H. Jäckel, (2000). Whole-body cryotherapy in rehabilitation of patients with rheumatoid diseases–pilot study. Rehabilitation, vol. 39, no. 2, pp. 93–100.
- Buena KP et al. (2009). Whole-body cryotherapy in patients with inflammatory rheumatic disease. A prospective study. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/19337708.
- E. Wojtecka-Lukasik, K. Ksiezopolska-Orlowska, E. Gaszewska et al. (2010). Cryotherapy decreases histamine levels in the blood of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, Inflammation Research, vol. 59, no. 2, pp. 253–255.
- Joanna Rymaszewska, David Ramsey, Sylwia Chładzińska-Kiejna. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00005-008-0006-5 (2008). Whole-body cryotherapy as adjunct treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders. Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis.
Written by Elouise Bermingham, Ba Science (Sports and Exercise), Minor Performance Enhancement and Coaching