Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) for multiple sclerosis? The U.S. Food & Drug Administration says not to get your hopes up. “Despite claims by many spas and wellness centers to the contrary, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have evidence that WBC effectively treats diseases or conditions like Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stress, anxiety or chronic pain.”
At Peak, we never advise anyone that the FDA has evidence that WBC can treat MS, because we know it doesn’t have such evidence. But the reason it lacks the evidence might be that it’s not looking for it in the right place. I don’t know of any clinical trials of WBC for MS, but I do know there are good reasons to believe WBC may be useful if you suffer from MS.
Cryotherapy for Multiple Sclerosis
WBC cannot cure MS. But nothing can cure MS. And while you cannot cure it, you can slow it down. Doctors can prescribe up to nine different medications for it, most of which slow the progress of the disease and some of which manage its symptoms. For symptom control, there are also different medications for controlling pain, spasticity, or other symptoms. In addition, some patients have found symptom relief in medical marijuana, and there are also a host of supplementary approaches, including yoga, acupuncture, and herbal supplements. And if you have pain from MS, you may well get relief from WBC.
Look at it this way. Everybody who tries WBC says it makes them feel better. If it makes people who don’t have MS feel better, wouldn’t it most likely make people with MS feel better, too?
The FDA seems to think it is performing a service to consumers by advising them to avoid WBC. But it may simply be diverting them from a technology that can reduce pain.
Oxidative Stress Reduction
In a 2013 article in the journal Clinical and Developmental Immunology, researchers explained, “The inflammatory environment in demyelinating lesions leads to the generation of oxygen- and nitrogen-free radicals as well as proinflammatory cytokines which contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Inflammation can lead to oxidative stress and vice versa.” This is important, because a study published in 2010 found that WBC causes an increase in total anti oxidative status (TAS).
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, exacerbations (relapses) of MS result from inflammation in the central nervous system. Doctors treat relapses by reducing the inflammation, usually with injections of corticosteroids. But a 2010 paper in Physical Therapy Reviews reviewed cryotherapy research in animal models and found cryotherapy influences key inflammatory events at a cellular and physiological level. There are no clinical studies of WBC treating MS relapses. But WBC indisputably reduces inflammation.
You don’t need research to demonstrate that stepping out of the cryo chamber buoys your spirit and your body. This is the result of a flood of endorphins throughout your body. It’s like a runner’s high, only without the running. It’s an effective way to relieve pain and it’s a mood enhancer.
As the FDA says, there is no evidence that WBC effectively treats MS. But we know that reducing oxidative stress, inflammation, and pain can make it easier to live with. If you have MS, you need to be under the care of a qualified medical professional. But if you can stand erect for three minutes in a cryotherapy chamber, you should ask your medical professional if WBC is worth a try. It’s possible that a couple weeks of WBC sessions (2-3 times per week) annually could help to manage your MS.
Speak with your doctor about it, and then book a few WBC sessions to see if you think cryotherapy is useful for multiple sclerosis.