Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory arthritis that predominantly affects the spine, although it can also affect other joints, tendons and organs. Formation of new bone in the spine and joints leads to stiffness and fusion resulting in a characteristic stooped posture. The inflammation leads to joint pain and stiffening, restriction in movement and pain at tendon insertions. Systemic symptoms include fatigue, fever and loss of appetite. In rare cases, the eye (uveitis), heart and lungs may be affected.

The disease can be accompanied by psoriasis or chronic intestinal inflammation including Crohn’s disease.

There are no known cures, and management is aimed at symptom control and delaying disease progression. Management includes anti-inflammatory drug treatments, physical therapy and irradiation therapy in more severe cases. Benefits have been seen with whole body and localised cryotherapy when used in conjunction with these therapies.


Benefits of WBCT in ankylosing spondylitis

  • Decreased inflammatory markers
  • Decreased CRP
  • Decreased immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA)
  • Decreased seromucoid
  • Significant improvements in spinal mobility
  • Pain relief
  • Improvements in sleep quality and quantity
  • Reduced joint swelling
  • Reduced morning stiffness
  • Reduced medication intake
  • Improvements in joint mobility
  • Improvements last up to 6 months following a course of treatment

Suggested protocols for WBCT in ankylosing spondylitis

Protocols suggest 10 to 20 treatments of between two and three minutes at a time over a period of two weeks, in conjunction with physiotherapy or a supervised exercise programme.

PATIENT STORY (extract from POWER FROM THE COLD, Papenfuss 2012)

“I would now like to mention the case of one gentleman suffering from Bekhterev’s disease (ankylosing spondylitis) who was treated with whole body cryotherapy at the health center in Bad Haering. The disease had really managed to depress him completely over the years in fact. When I met him for the first time and asked him what he wanted from the therapy, the modesty of his answer completely surprised me: “I just want to be able to turn my light on and off in my apartment again, I haven’t managed to be able to reach the light switch for a long time”. This desire was already outdone after just a few days of intense cold application. When I met him again in the spring of the following year, he told me full of pride that two three week serial cold therapies had already recuperated him to the extent that in the preceding winter he was able for the first time in many years again to stand once again on his beloved skis, and indeed do so over a course of more than 150 kilometers!”