Cryotherapy, sometimes known as cold therapy, is the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy.
Cryotherapy is used in an effort to relieve muscle pain, sprains and swelling after soft tissue damage or surgery. Some additional benefits can include increased energy, reduced stress, calorie burning (up to 800 calories), improved skin conditions and improved sleep.
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) treatment involves exposing individuals to extremely cold dry air (typically up to −100 °C) for two to five minutes. To achieve the subzero temperatures required for WBC. During these exposures, individuals wear minimal clothing, which usually consists of shorts for males, and shorts and a crop top for females. Gloves, a woollen headband covering the ears, and a nose and mouth mask, in addition to dry shoes and socks, are commonly worn to reduce the risk of cold-related injury.
There are many known health benefits to using cryotherapy. The following are very strong contenders for the top 5:
Pain relief and reducing inflammation
It is a well-established procedure that First Aiders will apply an ice pack to an injury that is likely to cause inflammation e.g., a sprained ankle. Cryotherapy can help reduce pain and inflammation in the whole of the body – reducing muscle pain, inflammation and the pain of some medical disorders e.g., rheumatoid arthritis. The first controlled trial of whole body cryotherapy was conducted in Finland in 2006. Sixty patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were put in to groups and were treated with either localised cryotherapy, whole body cryotherapy or conventional physiotherapy. Pain decreased in all treatment types but most noticeably in those that had the whole body cryotherapy.
Many professional athletes use cryotherapy after every event. They say it speeds their recovery and decreases muscle soreness.
Reduces anxiety and depression
It has been found in some studies that cryotherapy may treat mental health conditions. It is early days with this but there has been some positive preliminary research looking in to this link.
A study in 2008 in Poland found a decrease in anxiety and depression was significantly higher in a group that received daily cryotherapy. The patients felt that their symptoms were reduced by at least 50%.
It is a fact that during cryotherapy treatment the body releases endorphins – due to the cold the body goes in to fight or flight mode which releases feel good endorphins to mask/diminish the discomfort of the cold.
Whole body cryotherapy is a way to use cold temperatures to aid weight loss.
Being cold causes the body to work harder to keep warm and this burns up calories. This advantage of weight loss in cryotherapy is only recently being more publicised. Cryotherapy spas advertise that a few minutes of cryotherapy can increase metabolism for the rest of the day. After your cryotherapy treatment the brain sends signals to the rest of your body to pump blood to your core to increase your body heat and this then increases your metabolic rate.
Research is being carried out in to the effectiveness of cryotherapy in helping to prevent dementia. It is thought that cryotherapy may prove to be an effective treatment because the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of cryotherapy could help to combat the oxidative and inflammatory stress responses that occur with dementia.
Anti -wrinkle treatment
A surgery free way to boost appearance. Cryotherapy sessions speed up the natural cell regeneration process – effectively eliminating dead cells quickly. Regular sessions help improve and reduce the appearance of wrinkles due to cell regeneration and the enhanced collagen production that cryotherapy causes. The increase in collagen results in tighter and smoother skin which aids to reduce the visible signs of ageing.
There are of course many more health benefits to using cryotherapy. It’s also very exciting that there are more health benefits being researched and possibly many to still discover.