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Using Saunas as an Alternative Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Using Saunas as an Alternative Treatment for Fibromyalgia featured image

Aching muscles, migraines, and fever-like symptoms aren’t anyone’s idea of a good time. But for those suffering from fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions, it can be debilitating—impeding work performance, participation in social activities, and impacting your quality of life.

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, with the typical physician recommendation being over-the-counter pain relievers, eating healthy, and finding ways to cope with the pain, fatigue, and depression. However, there’s good news. A new alternative treatment has surfaced with promising results.

With scientific interest growing in the many health benefits of saunas, researchers are discovering that sauna bathing is an effective, natural alternative treatment for relieving fibromyalgia symptoms. Peer-reviewed academic journals are regularly publishing evidence-based articles describing results of studies involving fibromyalgia treatment and the use of saunas.

Regular Sauna Use Reduces Systemic Inflammation

A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology consisting of 2000 men between the ages of 42 and 60 investigated whether sauna bathing reduced levels of C-reactive protein in the bloodstream. Blood tests showing increased levels of C-reactive protein in your blood indicates widespread inflammation (as is the case with fibromyalgia) is affecting the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.

Subjects using saunas four to seven times a week had much less C-reactive protein in their bloodstream than subjects who used saunas one to three times each week. Researchers concluded that a positive correlation exists between the increased use of saunas as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia and recommended an additional investigation into the benefits of saunas for alleviating symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Are Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Similar Pain Conditions?

A study coming out of Japan recently reported that sauna therapy is an effective, alternative treatment for symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Most doctors agree that CFS and fibromyalgia are closely related to inflammatory disorders. One diagnostic difference between CFS and fibromyalgia is that CFS fatigue is more profound and incapacitating than fatigue seen in people with fibromyalgia. However, all other symptoms of CFS and fibromyalgia are identical: headaches, body pain/stiffness, problems sleeping, numbness in hands and feet, and anxiety or depression.

The study involved subjects suffering from CFS sitting in a sauna daily for one month. Dramatic improvement of symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and insomnia was reported by all subjects, suggesting to researchers that thermal (sauna) therapy represented a "promising" alternative treatment for fibromyalgia and CFS symptoms.

Why are Saunas So Effective at Treating Fibromyalgia?

Exposing your body to sauna heat raises skin temperature to the "hot pain" threshold, a safety mechanism that prevents you from allowing extreme heat to continue harming your body. Raising skin temperature to this threshold enhances the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, a sub-system of the central nervous system involved in responding to external and internal stress. When you sit in a sauna and activate your sympathetic nervous system with therapeutic heat, this system responds by releasing several pain-relieving, mood-elevating hormones such as epinephrine, beta-endorphins, and serotonin.

The European Journal of Applied Physiology recently published a study about the ability of beta-endorphins to alleviate systemic pain caused by inflammation. Released by the pituitary gland, B-endorphins primarily function as conveyors of messages among nerve cells. People suffering from chronic pain have higher than normal levels of B-endorphins in their blood, a natural response by the body to acute or chronic pain. In fact, all types of endorphins mimic the effects of morphine, to some extent, by targeting opiate receptors in the brain.

Engaging in rigorous physical activity like jogging or running also releases large amounts of B-endorphins into your body. The "runner's high" reported by athletes after an intense workout is their body's response to rapid breathing and muscle stress caused by reduced supplies of glycogen. Once that pain threshold is reached, B-endorphins start flooding the bloodstream, making the athlete feel energized, pain-free, and slightly euphoric. This same "runner's high" is felt by fibromyalgia sufferers when they choose sauna bathing as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia.

These studies suggest that people who experience fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or other pain conditions could stop relying on medications to provide temporary relief of symptoms. Learn more about the many health benefits of saunas by contacting a Finnleo dealer near you today.

interior sauna room

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