A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects
Fredrikus G. J. Oosterveld & Johannes J. Rasker & Mark Floors & Robert Landkroon & Bob van Rennes & Jan Zwijnenberg & Mart A. F. J. van de Laar & Gerard J. Koel
Received: 31 March 2008 /Revised: 1 July 2008 /Accepted: 11 July 2008 / Published online: 7 August 2008 The Author(s) 2008
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.
Since Hippocratic times, heat treatment has been popular among people with rheumatic disorders. The evidence for
their application is still weak, despite the fact that several studies investigating the effects of heat in rheumatic diseases have been conducted. Superficial heat can be used in rheumatoid arthritis and low back pain as a
palliative therapy and can be recommended for beneficial short-term effects, but these recommendations are limited by methodological considerations such as the poor quality of trials. Finnish saunas, a well-known form of total-body heating, showed good clinical effects for rheumatic patients. The so-called whole-body hyperthermia has also been widely used during the last century, especially in Germany and Eastern European countries and was known as “fever treatment”. Although beneficial effects of total-body hyperthermia have been reported, controlled studies have not been performed, and the method is not often used in Western Europe.