Sauna Benefits for Chronic Health Problems

We at UK Saunas believe in the wonderful power of saunas to ease the troubles of a great deal of issues that many of our clients seek our help with. Far infrared sauna therapy has a number of natural health benefits which include improved cardiovascular health and detoxification. But how can regular sauna use benefit people with chronic health conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (MS)?

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Due to its ability to penetrate the body directly, infrared wave therapy is able to access the point of pain and provide relief through stimulating blood flow, relaxing muscles and oxidising tissues.

All our saunas can be made wheelchair accessible at your request!

We’ve gathered together a range of studies from across the world that examine the effects of hyperthermia – the deliberate increase of body temperature such as in a sauna – on common chronic pain issues that show how truly beneficial regular infrared sauna sessions can be to pain relief.

While sauna use can’t cure any of these diseases, they have been proven to provide vital relief which can help sufferers live much more comfortable lives.

Sauna
treatment for
arthritis

hand xray of person with arthritis

Sauna use for the treatment of arthritis is quickly becoming more regular and is a reason many of our clients have invested in their own home saunas. One of our clients, Tom, has even discussed the benefit he gets from his home sauna in an interview with Arthritis Action, a charity doing fantastic work to support those living with arthritis.

In the video, Tom describes the pain relief as virtually instant and states he experiences no side effects as a result of regular sessions. Other benefits he points out which are specific to infrared sauna treatment include the lack of steam which allows him to read, use his tablet and listen to music during his time in the sauna.

Pain relief is 'virtually instant'

- Tom, previous client

In addition, a Dutch study of 34 patients noted reduced pain and stiffness results for all patients during four weeks of sauna treatment. This study also found that disease activity wasn’t affected at all, meaning that sauna use isn’t likely to cause any worsening of symptoms before or after use.

Sauna use
for fibromyalgia

pain points of fibromyalgia

The use of sauna bathing to treat fibromyalgia has been slightly more studied, and is famously a treatment used by Lady Gaga to ease chronic pain issues.

44 women suffering from fibromyalgia were treated with regular sauna bathing and thermal therapy through underwater exercises. Every patient reported significant pain reduction and other symptoms which remained stable during the 6-month follow-up period. This study also noted that the women experienced improved quality of life, meaning that thermal therapy was able to ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia and help the patients in their psychological and physical recovery.

Additionally, thirteen patients exposed to regular infrared therapy noticed a reduction in pain during the first session. This reduction stabilised after around 10 sessions, showing how regular sauna sessions are vital to maintaining the health benefits and fending off the symptoms of chronic illnesses.

Sauna treatment for
multiple sclerosis (MS)

MS brain scan

Research shows that far infrared rays can provide a range of benefits that can support the function of those with MS. While every person experiences MS symptoms in different ways, this trial showed that regular infrared sauna use can:

  • Provide energy to the body
  • Improve the autonomic functions of the nervous system
  • Restore functions of the endocrine system
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Increase levels of oxygen in the cells
  • Promote regeneration of muscle cells, nerves and brain cell

However, this test found that hyperthermia in patients with MS caused cognitive function to slow and auditory/sensory activity be negatively affected for up to an hour after a session. This means that, although there are many health benefits MS sufferers can access, users must take into consideration how it will affect their functions for the rest of the day.

Sauna use for
chronic back pain

spine x ray

A study on 46 patients with chronic back pain saw 24 patients undergo multidisciplinary treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, rehabilitation and exercise therapy and 22 patients treated in the same way with additional thermal therapy.

The visual analogue pain score, number of pain behaviour, self-rating depression scale, and anger score significantly decreased after treatment in both groups. However, 77% of group B were able to return to work within two years of treatment compared with 50% of group A. This shows that, although many other forms of therapy for chronic pain have a positive effect on the mental and physical issues that come with a condition, regular infrared sauna bathing proved more effective in returning to normal function for group B.

Sauna
therapy for diabetes

insulin injection for diabetes

Far infrared therapy has been shown to reduce cortisol and blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes. This Chinese study used infrared lamps to target areas of the body such as the feet to examine its effectiveness on treating issues related to diabetes, such as raised cortisol levels which affected insulin action. They found that regular infrared therapy improved patients’ ability to respond to insulin and also increased blood flow recovery by 48%.

Sauna therapy for chronic fatigue/ME

Japanese studies into the effectiveness of Waon therapy [1, 2] (infrared sauna treatment) on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and ME found positive results for most patients. The first study treated patients with CFS to regular dry sauna bathing and found that levels of fatigue decreased after treatment, although they noted that these effects didn’t take effect during the sessions.

The ten patients also noted reduced levels of anxiety and depression following therapy but no change in pain levels. Saunas are believed to reduce anxiety and depression in sufferers by encouraging the production of serotonin and oxytocin, known as ‘happy’ chemicals, through its direct penetration of the surface of the skin. The reduction of stress hormone cortisol is also a useful way of combating feelings of anxiety and depression often experienced by those with CFS or ME.

"I still deal with bone inflammation from my hip injury two years ago. But I keep control of pain with an infrared sauna."

- Lady Gaga

A different study on two CFS patients found that symptoms like fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance and fever were dramatically improved in both patients and both were socially rehabilitated after 6 months of regular sessions. The subjects of this test had already undergone treatment using steroid medication prednisolone with no effect. Both subjects also experience no relapse or exacerbation of symptoms in the following year.

The benefits of infrared saunas

While each of these conditions can’t be cured with a couple of sauna sessions, regular infrared sauna bathing sessions as part of a regular rehabilitation routine can be highly effective in offsetting some of the more uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms.

Find out more about the home infrared saunas we have on offer.