We discuss in this podcast:
- A study published in the Clinical Rheumatology journal shows infrared sauna helps RA and AS
- How Sue was introduced to the use of infrared sauna for arthritis treatment
- The positive effects it had on her skin
- Sizes and features of infrared sauna models
- Pain relief and stiffness reduction
- Sauna and biologic treatment
- Building an infrared sauna
- Frequency and duration of the sessions
- Infrared sauna benefits vs Bikram yoga
On this week’s podcast, we were lucky enough to be joined by Sue, who connected with us all the way from the UK. Sue came to talk to us about the life-changing effects she experienced using infrared sauna treatments over the last 12 months to improve her symptoms of inflammatory arthritis.
As a member of the Rheumatoid Support platform, Sue has shared the great benefits she experienced when using infrared sauna treatments with our support community. She spent time discussing these infrared sauna health benefits with us in the hopes of helping others.
Does Infrared Sauna Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?
While in Malaysia last summer, Sue developed some health concerns and had to seek medical help. Sue was asked at the doctor’s clinic whether she had heard of using an infrared sauna to treat RA. She replied that she had never even heard of an infrared sauna before! Sue was told that some doctors prescribe infrared sauna treatments to RA patients.
Sue was offered an infrared sauna treatment before returning to the UK. She jumped at the opportunity because, at the time, she was struggling with daily flare-ups and restricted mobility. After finding traditional saunas claustrophobic and stifling, Sue was worried about how she would react. To calm her nerves, she dragged her husband along with her!
Are Saunas Good for RA?: Sue’s Personal Experience
Sue was pleasantly surprised! Her experience wasn’t what she expected at all. Instead of being nervous and anxious, she felt comfortable and relaxed throughout her treatment, although understandably sweaty! The course of treatment took just half an hour.
Arriving home after her treatment, Sue felt invigorated and her body felt fantastic. She even noticed that the spots on her face cleared almost instantly. As the day progressed, her mobility started to improve as well and the swelling in her feet noticeably improved, making it easier for her to walk.
Tired after her treatment, Sue had a good nap in the afternoon and slept really well that night. She was back for another infrared sauna treatment at 8 am the next morning. This session resulted in an even more obvious improvement in mobility. She continued her daily treatments for 4 days before returning to the UK.
Infrared Sauna Treatments at Home
On her return to the UK, Sue invested in her own infrared sauna and has used it every day since! She happily states, “it has been a godsend for me”. She purchased the same model that her doctor uses – by the leading infrared sauna brand, Sunlighten. By purchasing a two-seater model, she ensured that both her husband and herself could use it alongside each other.
Describing her experience of using her infrared sauna within the comfort of her home office, she uses it as some perfect “me time”. A sort of little wooden cabin, the sauna boasts a comfortable bench inside. It even comes equipped with a screen and internet connection, allowing Sue to relax and unwind with some Netflix, an interesting podcast, or her favourite radio station. This time out has been great for Sue’s mental health, as well as her physical health.
Despite using her infrared sauna daily since last summer, Sue has not experienced any adverse effects. Rather, she reports a noticeable return of her symptoms on days when she cannot have her infrared sauna, such as when travelling. Hopping in the sauna first thing in the morning provides immediate relief for her morning stiffness. She even managed to get through the winter with no medication, thanks to her daily sauna sessions.
Sue happily awards her sauna an astounding 11 out of 10! In her experience, infrared sauna treatments have provided her with a similar effect to that she achieved through Bikram yoga. Like many others, Sue couldn’t attend her Bikram sessions due to COVID restrictions.
Is Infrared Heat Good for RA?
So, how exactly does infrared heat help RA patients?
Invisible infrared wavelengths produce a gentle and pleasant warming feeling when absorbed by the body. This is the satisfying feeling you experience as the sun shines on your face on a warm day. The wavelengths penetrate deep into the epidermis, warming the body from the inside out. In response, the body’s circulation is increased, allowing localized healing and a reduction of inflammation within the joints.
As the infrared wavelengths penetrate deeper into the body, we can see a response on a cellular level. There is an increase in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production and oxygen delivery through the body is expedited. Additionally, a small-scale study has shown that infrared radiation can increase the production of collagen and elastin by fibroblasts.
These responses may all play a significant role in the amazing effects reported by Sue!
How Hard is it to Assemble an Infrared Sauna?
Sue assembled her brand new infrared sauna herself, with the trusted help of her husband. She describes it as being a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The instructions she received with her sauna were very clear and there was the option to phone or email the manufacturer if she had any additional questions or needed further help.
How Should You Use An Infrared Sauna For RA?
Sue’s sauna allows her to choose between six preset programs or create her own customised program. Typically, she uses the cardiovascular program, which is the longest program, lasting around 45 minutes. When short on time, she will use the weight loss program, which she describes as “like a mini cardio program”, as it lasts for just 30 minutes.
Sue describes the effects as being similar to a vigorous workout. She sweats profusely during her session but feels comfortable and relaxed throughout. Sue feels energised straight after her treatment and sleeps well later. If she has her treatment in the morning, it provides her with sensational pain relief to face the day.
Combining Sauna Treatments with Cold Therapy
Sue has recently started combining her sauna treatments with cold therapy for added benefits. She has researched and begun following the “Wim Hof Method”, combining optimal breathing and cold therapy.
Following her sauna, enjoying a more flexible and mobile body, Sue does some yoga and then finishes with a cold shower. She reports that the cold water wakes up her entire body and further improves her mobility.
Is an Infrared Sauna Good for Arthritis?
As Sue found, using an infrared sauna regularly can have amazing benefits for RA patients. Just like a good workout, an infrared sauna treatment can boost circulation, reduce inflammation, repair cellular damage, induce relaxation and decrease fatigue.
Interestingly, a pilot study published in Clinical Rheumatology in 2009 explored using infrared saunas in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Patients were treated with twice weekly 30-minute infrared sauna sessions for 4 weeks. All patients tolerated the treatments well, with no reports of adverse effects. The authors reported decreased pain, stiffness and fatigue, with no enhancement of disease activity. Patients all reported feeling “comfortable on average during and especially after treatment”. This paper supports using infrared sauna therapy as a safe and effective treatment for RA patients.
Does Infrared Sauna Help With Inflammation?
Before starting her infrared sauna treatments, Sue’s blood tests indicated that, while her CRP level was normal, her anti-nuclear antibody test was positive. This indicates the presence of autoimmune activity.
Amazingly, in December, Sue’s blood levels showed that her CRP level was still normal, and her anti-nuclear antibody test was now negative! What’s more impressive is that, by this time, Sue had been off her biologic treatment for 4 months. Despite being prescribed Etanercept and then Humira, Sue’s experience with problematic adverse effects led to her decision to cease the treatment.
Sue’s amazing results were down to diet and infrared sauna treatments alone!