Can Infrared Therapy Help as a Natural Treatment for Fibromyalgia Pain?
If you’re searching for a natural treatment for fibromyalgia, you know all too well how difficult it can be to to find some relief. Fibromyalgia can be incredibly painful and debilitating. Finding an effective treatment is challenging and expensive.
While we still don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but we do know that heat can help with pain relief. A 2014 study found that thermotherapy significantly reduced pain compared to cryotherapy and in conjunction with conventional pain medication.
With that logic in mind, heat should – theoretically – help with fibromyalgia pain, right? Possibly.
More research is needed, but the results are promising.
We first learned of this from a customer who referred to her sauna blanket as her “healing heat therapy” miracle. She went on to tell us that for the first time in many years, she had the energy to exercise again. She had been using an new model of the Higher Dose blanket for 7 weeks and her results were impressive. After battling chronic fatigue from Fibromyalgia for over a decade, she was able to walk 2 miles with her dog and not need 24 hours to recover.
Let’s explore how infrared heat therapy may provide some relief…
Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Causes
Fibromyalgia is a muscle disorder that can cause debilitating pain. The condition develops when the tissue that holds muscles together becomes thickened or tightened.
Signs and symptoms can include:
Widespread aches and pains
Fatigue (mild to extreme)
Anxiety and depression
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Irritable bowel disorder
Those suffering with this condition often compare it to having a bad case of the flu. The aches and pains can make it impossible to get out of bed, but unlike the flu, these aches never go away. Some days are better than others, but the pain is always there.
Most people experience pain in their shoulders, neck, back and hands, but this disorder can affect any part of the body.
Fibromyalgia commonly affects women of childbearing age, but it can impact anyone of any age or gender.
Medical experts still don’t know what causes this disorder, but it’s believed to be a combination of genetics, trauma (emotional or physical) and infections.
One thing we do know? Fibromyalgia pain is very real, and over-the-counter pain relievers don’t work.
Doctors often recommend exercise as a way to help with the pain, but infrared sauna bathing may also offer some relief.
What is Infrared Heat Therapy? How Does it Work?
Infrared saunas use light to create heat – specifically far infrared light. Unlike steam saunas, which heat up the air around you, infrared saunas heat your body directly.
Infrared light can cause similar reactions in the body as moderate exercise, such as:
Elevated heart rate
Infrared saunas can have several effects on the body:
The heat produced by an infrared sauna gets the heart pumping and helps circulate blood throughout the body.
Improved circulation has been linked to reduced inflammation and less joint stiffness. The heat from the sauna can also help alleviate tension and even headaches caused by poor circulation.
Overall, improved circulation can help promote heart health, healing and an overall sense of well-being after each treatment.
Heat has long been associated with pain relief, but new research is finding that heat triggers certain vascular and metabolic functions that interfere with pain signals and help bring some relief.
Infrared saunas heat the body directly, so you get these pain-reducing effects all over the body. Sessions can be performed any time pain flares up, allowing you to get quick relief when you need it most.
Saunas in general are known for their stress-relieving effects, and infrared saunas are no different. Many people with fibromyalgia also suffer from chronic fatigue because of sleep deprivation.
The relaxing effects of an infrared sauna can make it easier for fibro patients to drift off to sleep at night.
Can Heat Help Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
Heat is often recommended as a natural way to alleviate pain, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that heat therapy can help alleviate at least some fibromyalgia pain.
Plus, infrared saunas mimic the effects of moderate exercise, an activity that doctors often recommend to fibromyalgia patients.
But what does science have to say about it?
Study: Waon Therapy for Fibromyalgia
One study from 2008 looked at the efficacy of Waon therapy (heat therapy) for fibromyalgia, and the results were promising.
The study involved 13 female patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) between the ages of 25 and 75.
As part of the study, patients:
Received Waon therapy once a day for 2-5 days a week
Were in a supine or seated position inside of a far infrared sauna
Temperatures inside of the sauna were 60 degrees C, and sessions lasted 15 minutes. Patients were then transferred to a room with temperature of 26-27 degrees C and were covered in a blanket for 30 minutes.
Researchers used the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire and visual analog scale to measure changes in pain symptoms.
After just the first session of Waon, all of the participants saw a significant reduction in pain, and the effects stabilized after 10 treatments. Scores on the questionnaire and visual analog scale were much lower after Waon therapy, and they remained that way throughout the course of the study.
All of the participants reported having significantly lower pain levels and reduced overall symptoms after treatments. Pain levels were reduced by as much as 77%, and health improvements were maintained for at least six months after the study.
Infrared therapy may help with the management of fibromyalgia pain, but this therapy is not a cure. It’s meant purely to supplement your existing treatment protocol. Remember – there is no cure for fibro, but the right treatment plan can help significantly improve symptoms.