Background and purpose: Local as well as whole-body cryotherapy is used to relieve pain and inflammation in rheumatic diseases. In comparison with a chamber-based whole-body cryotherapy, the novel criostream whole-body therapy (single-person cabin with cold air cooled by liquid nitrogen) as an innovative technique offers not only a rapid therapeutic effect but also a considerable reduction in costs. The aim of this study was to compare the effect of whole-body cryotherapy in the criostream on pain reduction, disease activity and pro-inflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor-[TNF-]alpha and interleukin-[IL-]1), and improvement in functional scores.
Patients and methods: Ten patients with different active inflammatory rheumatic diseases (four patients with rheumatoid arthritis, three patients with ankylosing spondylitis, and three patients with psoriatic arthritis/spondylitis) underwent nine sessions of whole-body cryotherapy in 5 days for a short time period (at first 90 s, with step-up in each application to 2.5 min total time).
Results: Pain and disease activity scores decreased significantly, and, subsequently, also the functional scores showed a significant amelioration. Furthermore, there was a significant reduction in TNF-alpha (p < 0.01) and IL-1 (p < 0.05). Side effects were reported only after the first application in two cases (headache and sensation of cold).
Conclusion: The criostream offers an elegant and, from the patient's point of view, attractive therapeutic agent in the multimodal treatment concept for inflammatory rheumatic diseases.