How Cold Therapy Can Help Fibromyalgia And Rheumatoid Arthritis
Jun 24, 2021 By Eric Carey
With roughly 20.4% of US adults dealing with chronic pain today, finding ways to help ease discomfort can be a valuable tool for a wide variety of circumstances. Muscle pain, joint pain, and the discomfort you may feel in your connective tissues can sometimes be explained by two widespread and chronic health conditions.
Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia are two similar (though different) health conditions that can present themselves as pain, either within our joints or throughout the entire body. However, the two tend to differ slightly in how they come about and what parts of the body they will predominantly affect.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where our joints are the main target for inflammation, while fibromyalgia is more widespread and causes pain that spans the length of the entire body. Regardless, cold therapy, which subjects the body to cold temperatures through various methods such as cold showers and ice baths, can potentially be an effective approach when managing the pain associated with these conditions.
Fibromyalgia vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis
As mentioned above, both fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis are two different conditions that will typically lead to pain within certain areas of the body. This includes our joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Both conditions may affect many other areas of your life, such as sleep, quality of life, and a person’s general wellbeing.
Fibromyalgia, which is classified as a chronic neurological health condition, can present itself as widespread pain, stiffness, and whole-body fatigue, which affects the way our brain processes pain. Fibromyalgia can make these sensations more amplified & widespread.
On the other hand, Rheumatoid arthritis differs in that a person’s own immune system will attack the body’s healthy tissues. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis specifically, this means the attacks will happen within the cells that line our joint membranes resulting in localized pain, stiffness, and swelling within the affected areas. Rheumatoid arthritis affects over 1.3 million Americans while fibromyalgia affects roughly 4 million.
Cold Therapy For Fibromyalgia & Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief
Although no cures currently exist for fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, there are potentially ways to help relieve certain musculoskeletal symptoms that don’t involve taking any medications. Cold therapy can be applied in a wide variety of ways, including the use of localized ice packs, surface-level cold showers, and penetrating ice baths.
Cold Therapy for Fibromyalgia Relief
With pain being prevalent across the entire body, fibromyalgia can anecdotally be difficult to manage depending on the day and the perceived levels of pain. Cold therapy, which is helpful in easing/reducing symptoms of both inflammation and general pain, has also been shown to help reduce the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
In one study, patients with fibromyalgia who were treated with cryotherapy reported a more pronounced improvement in their quality of life when compared to other patients not receiving this type of treatment. Plus, improvements in pain, fatigue and general health were also shown in other studies utilizing cold therapy as its anti-inflammatory effects may help alleviate the associated pain.
Cold Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis Relief
In rheumatoid arthritis, cold therapy has also been shown to be potentially effective in relieving the pain associated with this disease. This, in part, is thanks to the analgesic effects that the cold therapy has to offer the body in conjunction with it being a relatively easy tool to use at home.
For example, when symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis appear to flare up, applying a pack of ice to the inflamed joint or submerging that limb into a bath of cold water may be a useful approach to take to help ease any discomfort. Cold therapy will help constrict the surrounding blood vessels, help to reduce any local swelling, and help in numbing the nerve endings associated with the pain due to the colder temperatures.
Should You Try Ice Baths for Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Although both situations can be tough ordeals to manage, cold therapy can be a useful tool to incorporate for both fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis relief considering its soothing effects. Pain, swelling, and inflammation of the joints are all symptoms that can be managed with cold therapy. Though cold therapy may not be a cure or provide an end to the conditions themselves, as a tool it can be a helpful part of a comprehensive pain management strategy.
Disclaimer: Consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before applying cold therapy for fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.
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