How to Use Saunas for Pain Relief and Arthritis

Everything you need to know about infrared saunas and pain relief


Clearlight would like to remind users that this should not be taken as direct medical advice, and you should always consult a licensed health practitioner before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or existing pain treatment regimen. In the blog post, we referred to a clinical study that used a cabin sauna and measured its temperature to demonstrate the practical applications of using the sauna and the outcomes that were observed during the experiment. It is important to note that the benefits are not derived from the temperature of the sauna cabin itself, but rather from the increase in the body's core temperature, and the cabin temperature serves only as a means to raise the body temperature in a controlled manner for the purposes of the study. This fact is supported by peer-reviewed studies that outline specific requirements for duration, frequency and cabin temperature for the safe and effective use of a sauna.

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Did you know that over 3.9 million adults in Australia alone suffer from some form of rheumatoid arthritis, making it one of the leading causes of chronic pain? If you're one of them - or if you suffer from another form of chronic pain - you know how unbearable stiff joints and other aches and pains can be. The good news is that there's a growing body of medical evidence that suggests that infrared saunas are the key to reducing arthritis pain and treating other chronic conditions like fibromyalgia.

In this article, we'll delve into the research and show you how infrared saunas can reduce inflammation, help alleviate arthritis pain, and improve your overall health and happiness.

Are infrared saunas good for pain relief?

Yes, infrared saunas are good for pain management and reducing joint stiffness. A pilot study from Clinical Rheumatology found that there was a significant impact on the short-term improvement of pain and reduction of stiffness in sufferers of arthritis.

Authors note a trend towards long-term beneficial effects” of infrared sauna use for these patients. Their results also indicated that fatigue also decreased” in their patients.

Another study from the University of Twente asked rheumatoid arthritis sufferers to measure and rate their pain before and after using a sauna, with their results showing that pain and stiffness improved significantly during treatment. The average improvement rate was between 40-60% for arthritis pains.

How do infrared saunas provide pain relief?

Infrared saunas provide pain relief by increasing circulation and blood flow, which allows nutrients to be transported to areas that are in need of repair, while simultaneously removing built-up waste material.

Compared to traditional saunas, infrared saunas are even better for arthritis pain, as they provide the added benefits of infrared light.

Infrared heat therapy promotes oxygen-rich blood throughout our circulatory system and causes our blood vessels to dilate. The safe infrared rays provide more energy to the powerhouse of our cells, the mitochondria. The mitochondria are powered by what’s known as ATP, which receives a significant power boost from infrared energy and helps alleviate pain.

Sauna sessions can be considered to ‘charge up our cells' and give our bodies the tools they need to send oxygen-rich blood to painful areas.

Do infrared saunas help with inflammation?

Yes, infrared light waves help with inflammation, such as inflammatory arthritis symptoms and joint swelling, because the infrared light spectrum opens the door to your body's heat stress response. The heat stress response of the body from the infrared spectrum is to produce ATP, which can be the catalyst for the production of more white blood cells that fight inflammation inside your body.

A study looked at the relationship between using a sauna and an inflammation marker in the blood called C-reactive protein. The study included 2084 men aged 42 to 60 years who did not have any acute or chronic inflammation. The results showed that participants who used a sauna once a week, 2-3 times per week, or 4-7 times per week had average C-reactive protein levels of 2.41, 2.00, and 1.65 mmol/L respectively.

In simple terms, that means the study found that using saunas regularly is linked to lower levels of inflammation in the body, as measured by C-reactive protein.

Infrared saunas can reduce inflammation by providing your cells and circulatory system with a significant boost in oxygen-rich blood.


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How long should you use your infrared sauna for pain relief?

For pain relief, you should use your sauna for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4 to 7 times a week, over a 4-week period. Your sauna should be set at temperatures of 55ºC and higher to relieve chronic pain symptoms.

The time spent in your sauna should be comfortable, relaxing, and enjoyable.

Let's take a closer look at some sauna protocols outlined in clinical studies below.

How infrared saunas help people manage chronic pain

In one study, researchers at the University of Twente treated 57 participants - including those with rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and healthy volunteers - in an infrared sauna cabin. During the 30-minute session, the participants sat naked on the sauna bench without drinking fluids. The results showed an increase in heart rate and skin and core temperature, while seeing a decrease in blood pressure. All groups showed a decrease in body weight, with healthy participants losing the most weight. The majority of participants felt comfortable during and after the treatment and reported feeling healthier and happier 30 minutes after the session. The treatment also led to a statistically significant improvement in pain and stiffness in those with RA and AS. The study concluded that infrared saunas provide immediate relief without any negative impacts.

Many people with join pain have reported using an infrared sauna to help them find relief. Some have said that heat therapy has reduced the pain and stiffness in their joints, allowing them to move more freely. Others have reported that regular use of an infrared sauna has helped to reduce their dependence on pain medication.

Another study published in Clinical Rheumatology looked at the effects of infrared saunas on patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The patients underwent 8 infrared sauna sessions over 4 weeks, lasting 30 minutes each time. The saunas were adjusted to heat up to 90°C, and the patients sat in the sauna while exposed to infrared light. Before and after the 4-week treatment period, the patients were assessed and reported feeling comfortable during and after the sessions. The results showed that the patients experienced improved pain, stiffness, and fatigue, but these improvements didn't reach statistical significance. Additionally, there were no changes in disease activity scores, meaning the treatment didn't worsen their conditions. The study concluded that saunas have short-term benefits and are enjoyed by patients.

Infrared saunas and arthritis: FAQs

  1. Which type of sauna is good for arthritis? Infrared saunas have been shown to have a positive impact on arthritis symptoms and pain relief.
  2. Do saunas help joint pain? Yes, saunas can help to relieve pain from joints and improve circulation.
  3. Are infrared saunas good for inflammation? Yes, there is evidence to suggest that sauna therapy, including infrared sauna therapy, can help reduce joint inflammation and relieve symptoms of arthritis.
  4. Can heat make arthritis worse? In some cases, heat can make arthritis symptoms worse. It is important to talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
  5. Can infrared saunas help with joint pain? Yes, saunas have been shown to have a positive impact on pain from joints and arthritis symptoms.

The benefits of infrared sauna therapy for arthritis sufferers

  1. Pain relief: Infrared saunas (and the heat they generate) have been shown to provide significant pain relief for individuals experiencing pain from arthritis.
  2. Increased mobility and reduced swelling: By reducing inflammation, infrared sauna therapy can also increase mobility in individuals with arthritis.
  3. Improved sleep: Infrared sauna therapy has been shown to improve sleep quality for individuals with arthritis. This is due to the fact that the heat generated by the sauna can help to reduce pain and promote relaxation, allowing individuals to sleep better at night.
  4. Reduced stress: The heat generated by the infrared sauna can also help to reduce stress, which is a common issue for individuals with arthritis. This reduction in stress can lead to improved overall health and well-being.
  5. Improved blood circulation: Infrared sauna therapy can help to improve blood circulation, which can be beneficial for individuals with arthritis. Improved circulation can help to reduce pain and swelling, and can also promote healing in the affected joints.

Infrared saunas are a natural, non-invasive treatment option for individuals struggling with pain. By harnessing the power of heat, infrared saunas can reduce inflammation, increase mobility, and improve overall health and happiness.

Before starting a sauna session, remember to consult with a doctor to determine if saunas are the right option for you.

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