Fibromyalgia Patients Improve with Cryotherapy

Editor’s comment:  Cryotherapy is the local or general use of extremely low temperatures in medical therapy.  The simplest and most familiar form of localized cryotherapy is the ice pack, frequently recommended to reduce pain and swelling.  Whole body cryotherapy involves exposing the entire body to an ultra-low temperature for three minutes or less using a cryogenic chamber.  One of the benefits is said to be the triggering of a systemic anti-inflammatory response.  The dry, cold air used in the chamber is supposed to help sustain a reduced muscle temperature without compromising the skin or core temperature.  The superficial skin temperature quickly returns to normal, while deeper tissue and muscle temperatures remain cold, prolonging the anti-inflammatory effect.  A number of studies over the past two decades (primarily in Europe) have found whole body cryotherapy to be an effective treatment for a variety of painful inflammatory conditions, including fibromyalgia.

Effects of 15 consecutive cryotherapy sessions on the clinical output of fibromyalgic patients.

By Lorenzo Bettoni, et al.


Fibromyalgia is a chronic widespread pain disorder in which, the neurogenic origin of the pain, featured by allodynia and hyperalgesia, results from an imbalance in the levels of neurotransmitters and consequently of the peripheral pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators.

Whole body cryotherapy is a peculiar physical therapy known to relieve pain and inflammatory symptoms characteristics of rheumatic diseases, through the regulation of the cytokine expression.

The aim of this study was to qualitatively evaluate the effects of cryotherapy on the clinical output of fibromyalgic patients. A total of 100 fibromyalgic patients (age range 17-70  years) were observed; 50 subjects were addressed to cryotherapy, while the second group (n?=?50) did not underwent to the cryotherapic treatment. All subjects kept the prescribed pharmacological therapy during the study (analgesic and antioxidants). The referred health status pre- and post-observation was evaluated with the following scales: Visual Analogue Scale, Short Form-36, Global Health Status and Fatigue Severity Scale.

Fibromyalgic patients treated with cryotherapy reported a more pronounced improvement of the quality of life, in comparison with the non-cryo treated fibromyalgic subjects, as indicated by the scores of the qualitative indexes and sub-indexes, that are widely recognized tools to assess the overall health status and the effect of the treatments.

We speculate that this improvement is due to the known direct effect of cryotherapy on the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators having a recognized role in the modulation of pain.
Source: Clinical Rheumatology, May 2, 2013.  By Lorenzo Bettoni, Felice Giulio Bonomi, Viviana Zani, Luigia Manisco, Annamaria Indelicato, Patrizia Lanteri, Giuseppe Banfi abd Giovanni Lombardi. Reumatologia/CT, Ospedale di Manerbio, A.O Desenzano del Garda, Italy.

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