Heat & Cold therapy - 6+1 types (Cryotherapy)

For starters, neither my body-system nor my dry skin is particularly partial to heat or cold.
So I have to keep both as short as possible, definitely under 3 mins.
Heat is something most people know, have tried and use, so I’ll concentrate on the cold here, which is less commonly used. The Finns and Swedes culture using it, some old Asian traditions had/have it too. The cold showering a female friend suggested is part of three things propagated by the Dutch ‘freak’ Wim Hof: a specific breath-holding exercise, cold showering/baths and meditation stuff. Having had more successes with whole body cryotherapy than with any other therapy, I tried it and find it very beneficial. I’d’ve thought it is more for men, - and on youtube-vids it looks like that, but personally I now know quite a few women (5) who only shower cold (some may have undiagnosed fibro), and not one single other man… O.o

A. Whole body

1. Cold showering or ice baths vs. warm showers (or baths, mudbaths)
‘Our’ Lady Gaga uses ice baths! to get her fibro-pain down. Start cold showering with legs only, 8 seconds per leg (some say right one first, because it’s farther from the heart, but I start with the left one). Once you’re OK with that then the arms, then chest. Once you’re used to that you can add back and head/face too. (If you have difficulty starting, use heat first, as short as possible.) I usually have to keep it down to 40’’-60’’, otherwise my dry skin overreacts, but I know non-fibromites who do it for up to 10’’. But that’s enough to get pains, the Ache, feverishness and night thoughts down, to reset my body. A doc of mine says it works by numbing nerves, but also probably by transporting auto-immune/inflammatory substances away, so actually healing a part of the “cause”. I put a hot water bottle on my toes immediately after. It helps me sleep and dispels fibro-pains and -Ache for at least several hours.

(Wim Hof)

(propogates it as generally healthy, and his contacts with cold have been sort of scientifically studied. He also has a very helpful guided breathing tutorial). He likes climbing in the Himalaya with shorts on. After having studied him I’m pleased to find he is not a guru-type and not doing it to make money out of it.)

2. After sauna, i.e. hot & cold baths alternating, or showers alternating
That’s OK too, esp. if I’m not up to pure cold for some reason or I shouldn’t not disturb the acupressure processes (probably acupuncture similarly). But it works nothing like the pure cold ones, unless I keep the warm bit down to much less than the cold bit.

3. Whole body cryotherapy (cold barrel, cold chamber, cold sauna) or heat chamber.
A female colleague of mine with fibro & cfs who doesn’t want to try cold, has bought an infrared-chamber for at home, which helps her. It’s a much deeper warmth than in the sauna.
WBC means going into a chamber or a ‘barrel’ (i.e. head out of the top) for 3 mins, the temperature should go down to at least -90°C, in my case -130°C at first was too cold, went back to -110°C, then up 120°C, 130°C whenever it had less effect, and then up to -150°C/-250°F.
The first minute is no problem, the second is fairly ‘stiff’, if you’re not used to it, in the third you start counting down to zero, so that’s OK too. Once you are out, everything is fine. You can always see the left time and have someone to let you out as soon as you want to. Some people get claustrophobic in the chamber.
If you are taught & treated right and the appliance is a good one, you can’t get frostbite. In any case you can react if something is hurting too much by rubbing it with your hands. I don’t go in with gloves any more, I just rub my fingertips. So only underwear and socks &/or felt slippers.
It gets my Ache and stiffness down and often gives me energy as if I had no fibro, for minutes, usually hours, sometimes (in the summer) for 1-1.5 days. In the winter I’ve gone down from 4x to 2x per week, and upped the acupressure from 1x to 2x per week after the cryo, because the combination works really well.

Parts of the body

4. Hand grain baths (canola, alternatively rice, spelt, wheat) cold or hot.
You put 2-2,5kg of grain in the fridge or warm it to max. 45-50°C in the oven or microwave. Put in a big container and move your hands around in them. For me 3’ was the max. possible!, but all others enjoyed one or the other or both.

5. Topical/localized cryotherapy: or heat.
Cold: Flexible tube with nitrogen-‘frozen’ air, about 3 body parts per 1 min. Workaround: Just arms, esp. wrists in/under as cold tap water as possible, best thighs too for Ache. Joints, trigger points.
Heat, often moist: moor/mudpacks/fango.
The topical cryotherapy in the clinic hardly did anything for me, re. for joint or skeletal pain, but arms and thighs helps quite a bit on the fly for the Ache.

6. Smaller Cold pads / ice packs or heat pads, hot water bottle, grain cushions (e.g. spelt, cherry, wheat), or gel pads for either, wherever necessary
For Joints and trigger points, sometimes Ache, hot or cold or alternately. I prefer heat here.

"Stimulating the whole inner heating system"

7. Somehow this belongs here too: Acupressure - my TCM/acupressurist has managed to restore my old heat-cold-balance by stimulating points called “bringing the inner cooking pot to boil”. Interestingly I’ve started getting so sweaty now, like I used to, that I now often have to pull up my sleeves 15cm, wearing gloves for my cold hands, to get the right heat dose, but got that into balance now, too. But I have to change my long-sleeved shirt every second day again, in the last year it was only once a week.
She’s still trying to find things for my cold feet, hasn’t worked yet, at the moment I’m trying patting my thighs from top to bottom. These are the sort of treatments my body often likes, but sometimes a new kind of treatment she tries out may backfire completely … sometimes the 3rd day is then brilliant, sometimes not…

Old posts
https://forum.livingwithfibro.org/t/6-benefits-of-cryotherapy-for-body-and-soul/12759: Cold dipping - Finns & Swedes, 3 good links (incl. the second for combining WBC with localized C, cf. 3 & 5 above, last specifically ‘for fibro’), Cryo Clinic in Los Angeles.
https://forum.livingwithfibro.org/t/heat-and-cold-therapy/189: heated mattress pad, large ones, moist ones, disposable ones, blankets, bag of frozen peas, “ice hurts”.
https://forum.livingwithfibro.org/t/physical-therapy/108: a) 20 minutes of heat therapy followed by a light massage of icy-gel, then about 5-10 minutes of hand machine exercises.
Aqua Exercises/ Therapy Warmth when doing aqua gymnastics. - wouldn’t count this as heat tho…

3-fold European research evidence for (none against) whole body cryotherapy:

Italy 2013, Betoni et al.:

Spain, 2018, Rivera et. al:

= (PDF) The effect of cryotherapy on fibromyalgia: a randomised clinical trial carried out in a cryosauna cabin
= https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs00296-018-4176-0.pdf Spain, 2018, Rivera et al.
= Trial description here: Clinical Trial on Fibromyalgia: Whole body cryotherapy sessions - Clinical Trials Registry - ICH GCP without results

France, 2018, Vitenet et al.:



So, basically, if putting a ice pack (which I already do) on your hurting muscles/joints helps, than also a cold shower (on your whole body) can calm the nerves? Or, am I simplifying this too much??
Thanks so much for this post - I have been interested in learning more about cryotherapy JCS! :blush:

I’d think a cold shower could then work all the more: For muscles & joints I usually use heat packs!
Each type may work differently, so I’m not sure if all kinds of cold work just because one does.
But main thing about using cold for me is staying under 3mins, for all kinds. But whole body cryo I can/could do for longer than others, now I’m used to it…

Edited the first post now, I think it’s fairly complete. Any more questions?

Oh wow JCS - This is great! I don’t have time to read it all tonight, but I have it bookmarked, as I want to look at all of the articles you’ve posted.
I’ve learned so much from you, Seenie, and others on this site - Valuable information to cope with chronic pain and other problems we face with FMS. Thank you very much, my friend! :blue_heart:

Hey, where did that bd cake come from next to my avatar?! Can’t a girl keep any secrets! This is the BIG 6-0 (sigh)

Happy birthday AussieMom!


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:smiley: :partying_face: :cowboy_hat_face: :dizzy: :boom: :superhero: :sun_with_face: :notes: :musical_keyboard:
Or to translate into real readable words: Hope you party somehow with at least your hubby till you’re dizzy and everything goes positively boom, cos you’re a super woman and you make sun shine. Maybe someone can play you a song, or you, on your keys…? Or summink like that… :wink:

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Thank you, Sharon & JCS!
That was quite the bd emoji filled greeting, JCS! Love it! :blush:

Reading up celebrities again, I found that singer Rosie Hamilton used ice for her burning pain.

“I spent six months to a year of pacing at night, and just crying because of the extreme burning,” she reportedly told Fibromyalgia Aware Magazine in 2004. “The burning was so bad that I put my arm in the freezer, and I’d do that for 15, 20 minutes. Then I’d grab a bag of ice, put it on my head, on my face, on my hip, on my legs—wherever the pain moved to would just be such extreme burning.

She had trouble focusing on conversations, too, and the Oxycontin she was prescribed drained her savings, which she struggled to sustain without the energy for regular concerts. Happily, Hamlin got some financial help, learned to manage her symptoms with a combination of water exercise, acupuncture, massage, diet, and vitamins, and took to gardening and painting."

Her Angel Baby was covered by John Lennon.

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I like the article you posted JSC! I can believe it, b/c we all suffer in silence. No one sees what those celebs are experiencing when not in the public eye. I think ice would be a very good solution for burning pain. Sometimes I have to put ice packs on my feet, while they are raised b/c of swelling, hurting and burning pain.

Trying to explain it again:
My wife suggests emphasizes: You don’t freeze in or after the cryo! In those 2-3 minutes your are numbed. And after that you are warm, because in it your blood vessels have become narrow (vasoconstriction) and afterwards they become wide again (vasodilation). So you quite to the contrary “warm up” by doing it, and do not flare. (To feel safe you could take something warm for afterwards with you, like tea or pads).
Cryotherapy for the Ache is like - actually better than - ice cream in the burning sun :yum: or cooling your wrists & arms when it’s hot: it numbs and soothes the pain. It really is not that uncomfortable - it’s by far not as bad as eating too much ice cream in one go, more like a winter walk.
My PT (cryo&acupressure) compares it with that. I agree only is as much as the cold creeps on you slowly in both, so the shock is not as big as with cold showering. She also means: for non-fibromites. But it also creeps out of you very slowly after a long winter walk, I can remember, when I used to do that before fibro, of sometimes needing hours to feel OK again. (Now I don’t risk it too much, even tho my cold tolerance is better. I never go above 90mins., better 40-60’. And only 20-30’ if I’m not feeling too good.) After the cryo you feel warm pretty immediately. After a cold shower you do too, but I sometimes need a hot water bottle for me feet. Yesterday I cold showered at 12:20 and then did cryo at 1:10 - that was completely OK for my body, but my feet had to be packed in warmly after and remained slightly cold…
Cold showering is tougher than the nitrogen-cold air in a chamber or barrel. And you get used to it. In the rheum./fibro clinic I could do it 2x/d, but unfortunately it was much “warmer”, so not quite as effective. But just think: After 3 minutes you come out, with no side effects, you warm up immediately, but can often suddenly jump like a young deer, have energy, almost no pain, feel healthy again, at least for a few hours, sometimes days: Why wouldn’t you do something like that??? :smiley_cat:
Cryo does freeze … or better numbs my nerves, exactly what I need. And not just the pain, but clears my brain day at night, so I can sleep again… And uncomfortable? About as uncomfortable as the prick of injection. And FAR less uncomfy than the side effects of most of the fibro-meds I’ve tried. Only our bodies don’t realize and don’t associate them with the darn pill-taking. Needs quite a bit of head work…

And as I say above: Getting too cold used to be one of my absolute biggest triggers! Oct2019 I flared big time after having to stand outside at 17°C/63°F for an hour. My first time was too cold -130°C, which hurt a bit, so I went up to -110°C, altho it was OK after, but then went down again bit by bit to -150°C as I got used to it. So it took about 3x to realize that & how much it was helping.

Adapted from here:

I wish I knew what is “ normal “ - #5 by JayCS)
I wish I knew what is “ normal “ - #6 by JayCS)

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Thanks JayCS! I enjoyed learning about the different types of therapies for Fibro. I also didn’t know there was a magazine for Fibro. You detailed everything in a way that was very, very helpful. Have you heard anything about a medication free patch that can help with pain? I saw it advertised around the holidays but forgot the name of it.

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Thank you for the helpful feedback, Freedom :slight_smile: -
I’ve looked up the mag - it was available until at least 2017, either from the fibro-organisation National Fibromyalgia Association which publishes/-d it, or (cheaper?) from some of the CVS-stores in the US. There seems to be a fa€ebook-page which only works with login.
Yes, my wife sometimes uses and has pain patches without meds, I just asked her if she remembers me using one, then she read out the side effects: there’s quite a few, especially on the skin, which is why it’s not for me. And the effects show it warms the skin, in our case using iron oxide, so you’ve placed the question perfectly in this thread ;-). As she thought chili is in it (which my skin wd’ve also irritated) I looked for info regarding different agents, and found a good US overview from 2019 of 4 frequent agents (lidocaine, capsaicin (= chili), methyl salicylate, and menthol), showing that they are classified as counterirritants, i.e. they cause an irritation which is sposed to distract from the pain. Doesn’t contain anything about iron oxide tho (sorry for the amount of ads):
Altho the article tends to a negative conclusion I’d try pads with some of these agents, like menthol, if I knew my skin would tolerate them. (For instance I’d just read from a fibromite with an opposite skin to mine, who showers long to stop itchiness.) See also wikipedia, which names Salonpas as one brand name, praps what you’re looking for?: Transdermal analgesic patch - Wikipedia
With meds’d be Fentanyl, i.e. opioide, so hard stuff…

I’ve found some more studies on whole body cryotherapy WBC, all I can find on pubmed at the moment, but all positive and 2 very new ones, all from Europe.

Germany 2021, Klemm et al. Serial whole-body cryotherapy in fibromyalgia is effective and alters cytokine profiles - PubMed Serial WBC is a fast acting and effective treatment for FM. Proven effects of WBC may be explained by changes in cytokines.

Poland 2020, Rymaszewska et al. Efficacy of the Whole-Body Cryotherapy as Add-on Therapy to Pharmacological Treatment of Depression-A Randomized Controlled Trial - PubMed “Accumulating evidence indicates the effectiveness of cryogenic temperature interventions in rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and chronic low back pain. … The WBC intervention reduces mental health deterioration, especially in mood disorders, such as depression, and can be beneficial for well-being and quality of life.”

Turkey 2017, Yilmaz et al. The effects of local cold application on fibromyalgia pain - PubMed … local cold applications performed on the trapezius muscles of patients with fibromyalgia significantly decreased their pain. With its discovery of a new method of pain control…"

Finland 2013, Gauffin et al.: Do fibromyalgia patients use active pain management strategies? A cohort study - PubMed Active pain management strategies are most efficacious for fibromyalgia patients, regardless of the severity of fibromyalgia or optional comorbid depression. / The most frequently reported pain management strategies were physical exercise (54%), physical therapy (32%) and cold treatment (27%).
(Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine - Do fibromyalgia patients use active pain management strategies? A cohort study - HTML)

France 2016, Bouzigon et al. Whole- and partial-body cryostimulation/cryotherapy: Current technologies and practical applications - PubMed “Despite the increasing scientific interest in these methods, there is a lack of information about the technologies used. Moreover, there is no existing reference concerning exposure protocols and the relationship between temperature, duration, number of repetitions and the treatments’ desired effects. … This review emphasises 1) the lack of information concerning the actual temperatures inside the cabin or chamber during exposure and 2) the heterogeneity among the exposure protocols that have been reported in the scientific literature.”

The most important quotes from the 3 studies I’d already linked above (Italy 2013, Spain 2018, France 2018)

Alread linked above Italy 2013, Bettoni et al. Effects of 15 consecutive cryotherapy sessions on the clinical output of fibromyalgic patients - PubMed I wrote Betoni above, Bettoni is right. The quotes: “more pronounced improvement of the quality of life”, perhaps because it improves the “balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators”, which modulates pain.

Already linked above Spain 2018, Rivera et al. The effect of cryotherapy on fibromyalgia: a randomised clinical trial carried out in a cryosauna cabin - PubMed “In conclusion, WBC with a Cryosense TCT cabin may be a useful adjuvant therapy for FM; further studies on long-term effect and compared to other physical therapies are warranted.”

Already linked above France 2018, Vitenet et al. Effect of whole body cryotherapy interventions on health-related quality of life in fibromyalgia patients: A randomized controlled trial - PubMed
“Based on these findings, whole body cryotherapy can be recommended as an effective clinically adjuvant approach in the improvement of health-related quality of life in fibromyalgia patients.”
There is a correction of the study linked above here: Corrigendum to “Effect of whole body cryotherapy interventions on health-related quality of life in fibromyalgia patients: A randomized controlled trial” [Complement. Ther. Med. 36 (2018) 6–8] - ScienceDirect

3 old studies, interestingly all from Germany, 2000, 2000 and 1992.
Germany 2000, Offenbächer et al. Physical therapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia - PubMed Croytherapy is mentioned here as possibly helpful for FMS, along with PT, trigger point injection, massage, acupuncture, biofeedback, TENS, recommending a multidisciplinary approach. “Based on anecdotal evidence or small observational studies physiotherapy may reduce overloading of the muscle system, improve postural fatigue and positioning, and condition weak muscles. Modalities and whole body cryotherapy may reduce localized as well as generalized pain in short term. Trigger point injection may reduce pain originating from concomitant trigger points in selected FM patient. Massage may reduce muscle tension and may be prescribed as a adjunct with other therapeutic interventions. Acupuncture may reduce pain and increase pain threshold. Biofeedback may positively influence subjective and objective disease measures. TENS may reduce localized musculoskeletal pain in fibromyalgia. While there seems to be no single best treatment option, physical therapy seem to reduce disease consequences. Accordingly a multidisciplinary approach combining these therapies in a well balanced program may be the most promising strategy and is currently recommended in the treatment of fibromyalgia.”

Germany 2000, Metzger et al. [Whole-body cryotherapy in rehabilitation of patients with rheumatoid diseases--pilot study] - PubMed “According to the results of our study, there is evidence that the whole-body cold therapy generates important short-term effects and somewhat weaker effects over the treatment period as a whole. Short-term pain reduction facilitates intensive application of physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy. The treatment procedure is practicable, and all in all well tolerated. From the patients’ point of view, whole-body cold therapy is an essential part of the rehabilitation programme.”

Germany, 1992, Samborski et al. [Intraindividual comparison of whole body cold therapy and warm treatment with hot packs in generalized tendomyopathy] - PubMed “Central inhibition of nociceptors as a result of an activation of A-delta system as well as a blockade of gamma-motoneurons are discussed to be a mechanism of action of whole-body cold therapy, resulting in a decrease in muscle tonus. Long-term studies are needed to determine, if there is any enduring effect of whole-body cold therapy on pain in the patients with generalized tendomyopathy.”

Here’s quite a thread, an old one, about cryotherapy, too…

This is the full article from Jan 21 mentioned first in the post before last above

This review has quotes about cold showers

“Adapted cold shower might have antipsychotic effect similar to that of electroconvulsive therapy because it could work as mild electroshock applied to sensory cortex. Additionally, cold shower is example of stress-induced analgesia and would also be expected to “crowd out” or suppress psychosis-related neurotransmission within mesolimbic system.”
“CE activates SNS; increase blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline; and increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in brain. Antidepressive effect of cold shower attributed to presence of high density of cold receptors in skin expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain. It has significant analgesic effect and it does not cause dependence or noticeable side effects.”

See this healthline page about hot and cold showers::
Cold showers calm itchy skin: Adam Friedman, MD, says if you have itchy skin or skin conditions that cause you to itch, cold showers can help you overcome the sensation to scratch.
Cold showers help you wake up in the morning: When that cold spray hits your body, there’s a bit of shock. This shock increases: oxygen intake, heart rate, alertness
Cold showers increase your circulation: Increased circulation is one of the top reasons experts recommend cold showers. As cold water hits your body and external limbs, it constricts circulation on the surface of your body. This causes blood in your deeper tissues to circulate at faster rates to maintain ideal body temperature.
In that sense, a cold shower has the opposite effect of a hot shower for someone with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, since exposure to cold temperatures triggers the circulatory system to reduce inflammation and can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Cold showers help reduce muscle soreness after intense workouts: Since cold water has regenerative properties, your muscles will relax and repair after a tough workout.