Whole-Body Cryotherapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Colin Cook

Multiple sclerosis — MS for short — is a disease of the central nervous system. It can result in double vision, blindness in one eye, muscle weakness, problems with coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness or tingling, fatigue, dizziness, or problems with bowel or bladder function. The symptoms are highly variable, and they can come and go. But for 60 to 70 percent of patients, the disease eventually becomes a steady progression of symptoms, which may or may not go into remission. There is no known cure, and nobody has definitively explained its cause.

Although we can’t say what causes it, we can describe how it works. MS happens when your immune system attacks the myelin sheathing that insulates your nerves. As the myelin deteriorates, the signals carried by the nerves become unstable, which is what causes the symptoms. Eventually, without their protective myelin, the nerves themselves can be damaged. An individual’s MS symptoms can depend on the location and severity of the damage, which is why they are so variable.

There is no cure for MS, but there are strategies for dealing with it. 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.

Whole-Body Cryotherapy (WBC) has four properties that may make it an effective technique for the management of MS and its symptoms:

  1. WBC is known to fight oxidative stress. 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.”
  1. WBC is known to mobilize the immune system. A 2010 paper in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that repeated sessions of WBC have a “mobilization effect” on the immune system in healthy people.
  1. WBC is known to reduce inflammation. A 2010 paper in Physical Therapy Reviews  reviewed cryotherapy research in animal models and found “Cryotherapy can have an influence on key inflammatory events at a cellular and physiological level after an acute soft tissue injury.” 
  1. WBC feels good. 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.

Frankly, there is little direct clinical evidence that WBC helps control MS. But we know those four properties may make it easier to live with. In any case, WBC should not be your primary MS management technique but only a supplement to others recommended by your medical care professional. There is little risk in trying it. Talk to your doctor. It’s likely that a couple weeks of WBC sessions (2-3 times per week) annually could help to manage your MS.

See for yourself. Book a session at Peak Recovery & Health Center today.

Image: “Pratt & Whitney — Cycling Club” by Barbara Bresnahan. Creative Commons license. If there is anything agreeable about MS, it’s that it seems to inspire a lot of cycling.