Low back pain is a nearly universal experience. About 80 percent of adults endure it at some point in their lifetimes. According to WebMD, one study showed that 70 percent of patients are prescribed opioids for it. If we can show that infrared sauna is good for low back pain, we may able to help in some small way to manage the opioid crisis.
Back Pain Is Essentially Human
Why is the human back so susceptible to pain? Look around at the animal kingdom, and you will see there aren’t very many species that habitually stand upright. Standing upright is one of the newest adaptations in our evolution. Nature is still perfecting it. So the human back is a work in progress, and it is relatively fragile. According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain can result from injury, degenerative conditions, nerve and spinal cord problems, or even non-spinal sources.
Many kinds of pain go away after the pain stimulus goes away, but not back pain. Back pain has its own kind of vicious cycle. When the body perceives pain, it responds with guarding reactions, including muscle tension, restricted movement, anxiety, and even fear of movement. The tension, restrictions, and fear lead to muscle spasm, adrenalin, and nerve sensitivity, all of which promote intensification of the pain, which increases the guarding reactions. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Infrared Sauna for Low Back Pain
This is where infrared sauna can help. Infrared sauna can relax the muscle tension and soothe the spasm. A 2019 study found substantial reductions in pain among low back pain sufferers as a result of dry sauna therapy. Average pain scores among the participants dropped, but perhaps most importantly, 70 percent of them reported their pain had been successfully treated.
The study didn’t go into the reasons for those results. My hypothesis is that the heat of the sauna relaxes the muscles. The relaxation of the muscles interrupts the back pain cycle. Sauna, then, gives you the benefit of muscle relaxation without drugs. Furthermore, it doesn’t just relax your muscles. It relaxes you. I can see it in the faces of our clients exiting the sauna room after a session. There are few other experiences that can de-stress you like a sauna.
Massage + Sauna = Complete Pain Relief
I think infrared sauna can do a great deal for your back pain on its own, but if you want the full monty, consider combining it with massage. A 2014 study reported that deep tissue massage is as effective on low back pain as NSAIDs. In the study, they found the pain relief lasted for at least a day. So my recommendation is to schedule a massage and, when you’re doing that, schedule an infrared sauna session within two days after it. The massage will give you immediate relief, and the sauna will suspend the back pain cycle. And you won’t need to take NSAIDs or, heaven forbid, opioids.
If you have any trouble with the scheduling, give us a call at 603-402-4564. We can help.