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How Infrared Saunas Can Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms.

If you’re affected by Fibromyalgia you’re probably suffering from things like chronic pain, constant fatigue, sleep deprivation and most likely feel like it takes all the energy in the world just to get through the end of the day. If you recognise yourself in the above, then I strongly suggest you to keep reading. Science has some good news for you !

My goal with this article is to give you an accurate overview of the research done using infrared saunas in the treatment of Fibromyalgia and to extract all the methods used in those studies so you end up with an effective way to heal your pain at home.

If you think you might be suffering from Fibromyalgia or if someone close to you suffers from it and you wanna learn more about the causes then pay close attention to what’s coming below.

What is Fibromyalgia ?

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic syndrome characterized by widespread pain with specific tender areas. It is affecting over 3 millions of Americans each year and is often quite misunderstood by the public. Although the origins and causes of FMS are not fully understood yet...

Extensive research suggests that the most prominent symptom of FM, chronic widespread pain, is neurogenic (caused/controlled by/arising from the nervous system) in origin. The pain seems to result from neurochemical imbalances in the central nervous system that lead to a “central amplification” of pain perception.

This “central amplification” is characterized by a heightened sensitivity to stimuli that are not normally painful. It is also characterized by an increased response to painful stimuli. In simple terms, Fibromyalgia can be seen as the “volume settings” of pain in your body being way too high.” 1

Here are some of the most common symptoms of Fibromyalgia :

  • Low resistance to pain, tender points
  • Chronic muscular and skeletal pain
  • Muscle burn, twitching, tightness.
  • Draining fatigue and tiredness
  • Insomnia or poor sleep quality
  • Depression, stress, anxiety
  • Concentration and focus issues “fibro-fog”
  • Headaches, migraines.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Increased Menstrual Cramps

Mild Warming Therapy Using Far Infrared Sauna

In recent years, advances in molecular biology have helped us to understand the changes in physiology and biosynthesis that occur in patients after repeated thermal therapy. Mild warming of the whole body has been shown to have sedative effects via the sensory nerve endings in a wide range of contexts.

A few studies have been conducted on the effects of infrared sauna heat therapy in the treatment of Fibromyalgia symptoms and although the results are few so far, they have been quite promising.

Furthermore, most of the participating subjects in those studies have expressed and noted a clear reduction in the amount of pain they felt afterward. All of this with no adverse effects. Some of those studies (#4) even required patients to be examined over a longer time period in order to prove that the positive effects of the treatment was able to stand the test of time.

Study #1 :  Efficacy of Waon (soothing heat) Therapy on Fibromyalgia symptoms. 2

A total of 13 Female patients affected by Fibromyalgia aged between 25-45 years old participated in this study.

Settings and Procedures :

  • Device used : Far Infrared Dry Sauna
  • Frequency of treatment : 2-5 days/week
  • Duration of each session : 15 min
  • Temperature : 60C or 140F
  • Each patient were then transferred to a room maintained at a temperature of 26-27C for an additional 30 min.
  • During this phase, subjects were fully covered by blanket from the feet to the neck in order to maintain a warm body temperature.

Results :

All patient reported a decrease in the amount of pain they felt after the 1st session and the positive effects associated with the treatment became stable and lasted for even longer after the 10th session.

More results from the “Waon Therapy” study :

  1. Tender point pain reduced by +/- 30%.
  2. Improved Social Life due to pain reduction.
  3. Autoimmune disease symptoms reduced. (AID)
  4. Reduction in muscular spasms.
  5. Decrease in oxidative stress.

Why You Should Choose an Infrared Sauna Over a Traditional Sauna...

Being affected by an increased sensitivity to pain, those suffering from Fibromyalgia should opt for an infrared saunas over a traditional one. The reason being that the heat radiating from the infrared emitters is “softer” and less aggressive on the sympathetic nervous system than the scorching heat of conventional saunas.

Temperatures in infrared rooms are generally ranging from 38C/100F to 60C/140F compared to 82.2C/180F to 93.3/200F for traditional models. And although it was shown that the administration of mild-intensity heat for a short period did not impose any physical strain even on subjects with disabilities; the intensity and duration of heat exposure must be appropriately controlled. Considering this it is safe to say that infrared saunas is the appropriate choice over a traditional ones when it comes to Fibromyalgia symptoms.

Another thing to consider is that although the heating effect of a high ambient temperature such as in traditional models is comparable, the addition of infrared radiation make it so that heat penetrates maximally up to 4 mm into the superficial skin. This is crucial for people suffering from deep musculoskeletal pain.

Study #2 : A new treatment: (Far Infrared) thermal therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. 3

This study was conducted on 13 patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and measured the degree to which physical symptoms such as fatigue and pain were improved following repeated FAR infrared sauna sessions over the course of a few weeks. Following the study, it was reported that the treatment had a relaxation effect, diminished appetite loss and subjective complaints in mildly depressed patients.

Settings and Procedures :

  • Device used : Far Infrared Dry Sauna
  • Frequency of treatment : Monday to Friday/5 days a week
  • Total sessions : 35 sessions.
  • Temperature : 60C or 140F
  • Subjects went into “post-sauna warming” following each session.
  • Subjects continued the treatment for 1 year after the end of the study (going 1-2 days a week on an outpatient basis.)

Results :

  • Symptoms such as fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, and low-grade fever were dramatically improved after 15 to 25 sessions of thermal therapy.
  • Subjects showed no relapse or exacerbation of symptoms during the first year after discharge.
  • Hours of non-sedentary activities increased after repeated thermal therapy. (more active lifestyle)
  • The patients became socially rehabilitated 6 months after discharge.

Conclusion :

Results from the study suggests that repeated FAR infrared sauna sessions could help in the treatment of chronic fatigue, pain, insomnia, mild depression and fever. Data also shows that patients undergoing the mild heat therapy treatment and maintaining it are more prone to develop a more active and social lifestyle.


Study #3 : Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects. 4

This study included 18 patients suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis and 18 patients suffering from Ankylosing spondylitis. These conditions cannot be considered as Fibromyalgia but they share similar symptoms.

Both groups were treated over a 4 week period with 8 infrared sauna sessions. Treatments were well tolerated and no adverse effects or exacerbation of disease were reported.

Settings and Procedures :

  • Device used : Far Infrared Sauna
  • Total sessions : 8 sessions over 4 weeks (2 times/week)
  • Temperature : 55C or 131F

Subjects were exposed to total body heat treatment in an infrared cabin at three different intensities in order to measure the differences between, skin surface, core temperature and heart rate.

Results :

  • Fatigue decreased
  • Pain reduced approximately 40% and 60%
  • Stiffness approximately 50% and 60% for patients with RA and AS respectively.
  • Pain and stiffness reduced clinically with a 95% - 99.9% statistical accuracy for RA and AS patients respectively.
  • Both groups felt comfortable 59% after treatment and 24.9% felt very comfortable.

Conclusion :

This study suggests that infrared sauna treatment can be very beneficial when it comes to chronic pain, muscle stiffness, fatigue and general symptoms associated with RA and AS.


Study #4: Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. 5

Conducted on 44 females affected by Fibromyalgia, this specific study aimed to investigate whether thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise improved pain, symptoms, and quality of life in patients.

The main symptom of FMS is widespread musculoskeletal pain, lasting longer than 3 months, which is associated with chronic fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disorder, morning stiffness, anxiety, and depression.

Settings and Procedures :

  • Device used : Far Infrared Sauna
  • Sessions/day : Once daily
  • Session/week : 3 days a week
  • Duration of treatment : 12 weeks
  • Temperature exposed to : 60C or 140F
  • Session duration : 15 min

Results :

All patients reported a decrease in pain of (31-77%) after 12 weeks of thermal therapy, and the values remained similar at the 6-month follow-up visit (28-68%).

All of the patients successfully completed the 12-week thermal therapy program comprising of sauna therapy and underwater exercises (that is, 100% patient compliance)

Also, 21 of the 32 patients who had quit their job or taken a leave of absence have since returned to work and showed an improved physical condition following the thermal therapy.

Conclusion :

This method is particularly interesting in that it is quite easy, effective and convenient to follow. Someone could do 3 days/week in the sauna and take hot baths at home 2 days/week (minus exercises). This study also followed participants 6 months after the initial treatment and found that the positive effects measured 6 month later were almost the same as the ones right after the study.

How Can I Use This Information ?

Although these results are still preliminary, they are quite promising and should definitely be considered. If you’re suffering from the symptoms above and you wish to start using an infrared sauna as a mean to ease your pain then we would suggest following the methods and parameters used in the studies. General rule of thumb would be :

  1. Using an Infrared sauna.
  2. Temperature of +/- 55C-60C/130f-140F
  3. Frequency of sessions : 3-5/week
  4. Over a long and sustained period of time

Following those guidelines would probably the safest and most effective way to go in our opinion.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at https://northernsaunas.com/pages/contact


References :
  1. The Science of Fibromyalgia Daniel J. Clauw, MD, Lesley M. Arnold, MD, and Bill H. McCarberg, MD
  2. Efficacy of Waon (soothing heat) Therapy on Fibromyalgia symptoms/ Kakushi Matsushita, Akinori Masuda and Chuwa Tei/https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/internalmedicine/47/16/47_16_1473/_pdf
  3. [A new treatment: thermal therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome] Masuda A1, Munemoto T, Tei C. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17561703
  4. Infrared sauna in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. A pilot study showing good tolerance, short-term improvement of pain and stiffness, and a trend towards long-term beneficial effects. Oosterveld FG1, Rasker JJ, Floors M, Landkroon R, van Rennes B, Zwijnenberg J, van de Laar MA, Koel GJ. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18685882
  5. Effects of thermal therapy combining sauna therapy and underwater exercise in patients with fibromyalgia. Matsumoto S1, Shimodozono M, Etoh S, Miyata R, Kawahira K. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21742283