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The effect of cryotherapy on fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a syndrome characterised by chronic generalized musculoskeletal pain, hyperalgesia, and allodynia. Musculoskeletal pain is usually accompanied by fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety and depression, paraesthesia, joint stiffness, headache, subjective sensation of swelling, concentration difficulties, and memory impairment, among other unexplained symptoms (1).

There are numerous studies that have been conducted around the use of whole-body cryotherapy WBC, with participants showing a reduction in pain. Since there is no proven inflammatory component in fibromyalgia, it has been postulated that cryotherapy through a reduction of oxidants levels may reduce muscular damage and accelerate recovery after normal physical activity (2). Therefore, researchers suggest that pain and fatigue may substantially improve reducing symptomatology and improving physical function in these patients (2).Cryotherapy also relieves stress by the activation of neuroendocrine and metabolic functions, and it is known that in patients with fibromyalgia stress is an important component (3).

One study reported an improvement in quality of life with WBC in 50 patients with FM (4) .The WBC treatment protocol consisted of 15 sessions over a period of 3 weeks. Each session lasted 30 s with a temperature of − 60 °C followed by 3 min at − 140 °C. Improvement was demonstrated after treatment in pain, global health status and fatigue (4).

Further studies conducted 10 cryostimulation sessions (in addition to usual care). This was implemented over a duration of 8 days. Duration of each cold exposure session was set to 3 minutes at a temperature of −110 °C. The results from this study found that patients with fibromyalgia were improved for pain and functional mobility after 10 whole-body cryostimulation sessions compared to those in the control group (5).

Although fibromyalgia only affects 2–4 percent of adults, based on recent findings, it can be expected that whole body cryotherapy can be prescribed to help improve quality of life of those who suffer from fibromyalgia. With these findings above, we are seeing more people turn to so called alternative treatment such as WBC and more medical physicians prescribing WBC as an adjunct treatment for fibromyalgia.


1. Cabo-Meseguer A, Cerda-Olmedo G, Trillo-Mata JL. Fibromyalgia: prevalence, epidemiologic profiles and economic costs. Med Clin (Barc) 2017;149(10):441–448. doi: 10.1016/j.medcli.2017.06.008.

2. Rivera, J., Tercero, M. J., Salas, J. S., Gimeno, J. H., & Alejo, J. S. (2018). The effect of cryotherapy on fibromyalgia: a randomised clinical trial carried out in a cryosauna cabin. Rheumatology international, 38(12), 2243–2250.

3. Busch AJ, Schachter CL, Overend TJ, Peloso PM, et al. Exercise for fibromyalgia: a systematic review. J Rheumatol. 2008;35(6):1130–1144.

4. Bettoni L, Bonomi FG, Zani V, Manisco L, Indelicato A, Lanteri P, Banfi G, Lombardi G ,Clin Rheumatol. Effects of 15 consecutive cryotherapy sessions on the clinical output of fibromyalgic patients. 2013 Sep; 32(9):1337-45.

5. M.Vitenet, F.Legrand, B.Bouchet, F.Bogard, R.Taiar, G.Polidori, A.Rapin, F.C.Boyer. Whole body cryotherapy in fibromyalgia patients: Effects on pain and functional mobility. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. Volume 61, Supplement, July 2018.

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