I recently did a web search on “cryotherapy for MS.” I got more than 2 million hits, most of which appeared to be places (like Peak Recovery & Health Center) that offer cryotherapy treatments for MS patients. This is unfortunate. I myself have touted cryotherapy for multiple sclerosis in the past. But I’ve never suggested it as a treatment, and I won’t until clinical research says it is.
Cryotherapy for MS
So far, the best report we have concerned a study involving 16 MS patients. The study showed the patients realized some benefits in the form of “positive antioxidant effects.” But the patients received 10 whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) sessions per day for two weeks, and even then, the beneficial effects weren’t permanent. This led the investigators to conclude that cryotherapy might be useful “as a short-term adjuvant treatment for patients suffered due to MS.”
Cryotherapy, in other words, is not yet a treatment for MS. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. I continue to believe there are three ways in which whole-body cryotherapy could benefit someone suffering from MS.
Oxidative Stress Reduction
First, cryotherapy is known to reduce oxidative stress. The study cited above suggested the effects might be temporary, but temporary relief isn’t exactly worthless. And we know oxidative stress is at least one of the ways in which MS does its damage. Even temporary relief of oxidative stress should slow the progress of the disease. Furthermore, 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.
There is no evidence that WBC effectively treats MS. But we know that reducing oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and reducing 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 MS.