Fibromyalgia has been called the “aching-all-over” disease, but that description doesn’t begin to describe the misery the debilitating illness afflicts. A painful muscle disorder in which the thin film or tissue holding muscle together becomes tightened or thickened, fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal aches, pains and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, mild to incapacitating fatigue, and sleep disturbances.
The pain of fibromyalgia is commonly felt in the neck, back, shoulders and hands, but it is certainly not limited to those areas. According to criteria set by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 1990, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires a patient to have experienced widespread pain for at least three months in 11 of 18 tender muscle sites. Among those 18 sites are the rib cage, hips and knees.
Additional symptoms of fibromyalgia include allergies, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, tender skin, numbness, irritable bowel symptoms, dizziness, anxiety and depression. The ACR estimates that fibromyalgia affects as many as 6 million Americans. Most sufferers are women of childbearing age, but fibromyalgia has also been known to strike men, children and the elderly.
As for what causes fibromyalgia, several theories exist. The Alternative Medicine Guide to Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and Environmental Illness states that “post-traumatic fibromyalgia is believed to develop after a fall, whiplash or back strain, whereas primary fibromyalgia has an uncertain origin.” However, in her book Detoxify or Die, Dr. Sherry A. Rogers points an accusatory finger at pesticides, silicone from breast implants, mercury poisoning, and the “leakage of putrid intestinal metabolic products into body tissues” as possible causes of fibromyalgia.
While theorists may differ on the specific causes of fibromyalgia, there is some agreement among doctors that patients with fibromyalgia can benefit from a combination of mild exercise, heat therapy, and relaxation, all three of which can be achieved through the use of a far infrared sauna.
In her book The Holistic Handbook of Sauna Therapy, Dr. Nenah Sylver praises the sauna for its power to increase cardiovascular activity and white blood cell, enzyme, and norepinephrine, beta-endorphin and possibly thyroxin production. As they, in turn, help to enhance circulation, raise metabolism, increase waste removal and nutrient absorption, and promote the elimination of toxins, foreign proteins and microbes, Dr. Sylver considers the aforementioned benefits of proper sauna use crucial in helping people with fibromyalgia. She adds that “there are actually very few health problems that cannot be helped (or would become worse) with sauna therapy” but still advises patients to check with their health care providers before beginning sauna therapy.
Dr. Rogers and other health professionals insist that the far infrared sauna or heat therapy room is of greater benefit to fibromyalgia sufferers than the traditional hot Finnish sauna because of a key difference between the two styles of sauna. Rogers calls the infrared sauna “infinitely more tolerable,” especially for people with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and multiple sclerosis, because it can function effectively at a much lower temperature than a conventional Finnish sauna.
“I’m convinced that the far infrared sauna is something that everyone should do to restore health,” Dr. Rogers concludes. “It can do what no medication can do – reverse disease.”