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Cryotherapy for Arthritis: A Management Strategy

According to Arthritis By The Numbers (PDF), published by the Arthritis Foundation, about 54.4 million adults officially have arthritis. I say “officially,” because they have been diagnosed by doctors. When you add in people who report the symptoms of arthritis but haven’t been diagnosed, however, the total comes to 91 million. Furthermore, the incidence of arthritis seems to be increasing, and not just because the population is getting older. Almost two thirds (64%) of arthritis sufferers are under 65, including 300,000 children.

100 Varieties

There’s no cure for arthritis, for the same reason there’s no cure for the common cold. Arthritis is not a single disease. It is a name applied to any of about 100 different medical conditions, from ankylosing spondylitis and common back pain to tendinitis, vasculitis, and Wegener’s Granulomatosis. Arthritis is just the name we give to joint pain or disease.

Like the common cold, however, the many forms of arthritis tend to result in a set of readily recognizable symptoms: “Common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms may come and go, and can be mild, moderate or severe. They may stay about the same for years but may progress or get worse over time,” according to Arthritis By The Numbers.

Get Physical

But the situation is far from hopeless. Arthritis By The Numbers says that physical activity can reduce pain and improve physical function for arthritis sufferers by 40%. That’s a lot of improvement, if you ask me.

It’s probably not surprising that one of the most popular treatment strategies for arthritis is to provide pain relief sufficient for the patient to get physically active.

A study from the year 2000 suggests that whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) could be key to such a strategy. The researchers treated 120 patients, each of whom suffered from some kind of arthritis (there were 7 types in the study). They gave these patients 2.5 minutes in the cryo chamber at about -220 degrees Fahrenheit. The result was that patients’ pain levels decreased dramatically. The researchers found that the pain reduction lasted about 90 minutes, prompting them to note, “Short-term pain reduction facilitates intensive application of physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.”

Apply It Yourself

If this suggests a management routine for your arthritis, that’s what I was going for. Treat yourself to WBC. Once you’ve had your 3 minutes in the cryo cabinet, you then have 90 minutes to go out and jog a mile, join a spin class, or swim some laps.

Consider this. The YMCA of Greater Nashua has two locations. One is 9 minutes’ drive from our site, and the other is 10 minutes’ drive. Both have swimming pools, as well as cycling classes, treadmills, indoor running and walking, dance classes, yoga, pilates, and other activities. Find an activity or class you like, join the Y if you aren’t already a member, check on the time for your activity, and book a WBC session about a half hour before it starts. We’ll get you in and out of the cryo cabinet in time to drive to the Y and perform your chosen activity during your 90-minute window. Trouble with the scheduling? Call us (603-402-4564). We’ll be glad to help.