Massage therapists are increasingly incorporating steam and sauna therapies into their practices. A recently published pilot study shows sauna use is well tolerated and does not create adverse effects in patients with chronic heart failure.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, also measured the impact of sauna use on exercise tolerance and neuroendocrine concentrations among the patients.

Subjects were randomized into two groups and told to maintain their normal medication and activity regimens. One group then began a 15-minute-per sauna session, at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with sessions three times a week for a total of four weeks, while the other (control) group continued with their usual activities and medications. Assignments were then reversed.

Measurements included Patient acceptance, Minnesota Living With Heart Failure Questionnaire scores; treadmill exercise duration and neuroendocrine concentrations.

“Improvements in questionnaire scores and treadmill endurance did not achieve statistical significance on a between-group basis but were more marked after the sauna than during the control phase,” the study’s abstract noted. The only statistically significant effect the sauna had on neuroendocrine concentrations was in noradrenalin’s 24-percent decrease.

“Sauna bathing under the moderate and supervised conditions of this study appears to be well tolerated and may be safe for people with CHF,” the researchers noted. “More research is needed to further evaluate the safety and potential benefits of this approach.”

The research was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation; the abstract from which this article was written was published on Pub Med, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Previous research shows thermal therapy reduced depression.

The September 2008 issue of MASSAGE Magazine featured an article the described the use of steam and sauna in conjunction with massage therapy, “Heat Up Your Practice with Steam & Sauna Therapies.”