The Pain Diaries: The Sauna for Rheumatoid Arthritis

I have been regularly using the sauna at my local rec center since my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in 2015 – my routine used to be gym before and then sauna after but since the coronavirus pandemic I haven’t been into a sauna since March.

Oh how I miss that tiny hot room I would sweat profusely in – you did some wonders for my rheumatoid arthritis and all that comes with it.

While I can take a hot bath each day it just isn’t the same as the sauna was. I can’t stretch like I would in the sauna or simply just getting out of the house can have health benefits attached to it. 

With the sauna I felt refreshed, clearer, lighter, mobile, hydrated, my skin was always glowing, my appetite was well controlled, my mood was elevated, and weight loss was a lot easier. I was also a lot more motivated to exercise in the gym because I had the sauna to look forward to after – it was my time to relax and recharge before taking on the day.

Without the sauna I’m noticing a number of uncomfortable changes – like more muscle pain and aches, stiffness, higher fatigue, dehydration, lack of motivation to exercise, more acne and dead skin, increase of depression and anxiety, weight gain and harder to lose the quarantine lbs because I am not going out and being as physically active. My chiropractor keeps saying I am more stiff and need to move around more. I am even experiencing grief over the loss of my routine to treat my chronic illness, the sauna was a major part of that routine. Safe to say, I’m hurting without my regular sauna experience. 

Now considering my love for research to prove health benefits I went digging – Does the sauna really help those living with rheumatoid arthritis?

I found a paper published in Clinical Rheumatology on my question.

Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects

“To study the effects of infrared (IR) Sauna, a form of total-body hyperthermia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS) patients were treated for a 4-week period with a series of eight IR treatments. Seventeen RA patients and 17 AS patients were studied. IR was well tolerated, and no adverse effects were reported, no exacerbation of disease. Pain and stiffness decreased clinically, and improvements were statistically significant (p < 0.05 and p < 0.001 in RA and AS patients, respectively) during an IR session. Fatigue also decreased. Both RA and AS patients felt comfortable on average during and especially after treatment. In the RA and AS patients, pain, stiffness, and fatigue also showed clinical improvements during the 4-week treatment period, but these did not reach statistical significance. No relevant changes in disease activity scores were found, indicating no exacerbation of disease activity. In conclusion, infrared treatment has statistically significant short-term beneficial effects and clinically relevant period effects during treatment in RA and AS patients without enhancing disease activity. IR has good tolerability and no adverse effects.”

In other words the sauna is not just giving me a placebo effect but really part of my health care routine. 

Here another rheumatoid arthritis patient talks about her sauna love

In this article The Neosauna team describe the health benefits for saunas and rheumatoid arthritis 

Here another RA patient speaks about her experience in depth with the sauna on Rheumatoid Solutions

Does the sauna help your rheumatoid arthritis? 

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