What are the benefits of cryotherapy?

Sitting in a cold tank might seem an odd path to health. But the trend, which goes by the name of cryotherapy, is becoming increasingly popular.

People, including self-described “Iceman” Wim Hof, claim that extreme cold can improve mental and physical health and even prolong life. So what does the science say?

Research on cryotherapy is as new as is the trend for the treatment. So doctors do not fully understand all the potential benefits and risks of the process.

In this article, we look at some of the possible benefits to be had from cryotherapy healing, as well as other facts a person may need to know before they consider it.

Fast facts on cryotherapy:

  • Cryotherapy is any treatment that involves the use of freezing or near-freezingtemperatures.
  • Because cryotherapy is new, some potential benefits are not yet proven.
  • Cryotherapy might be a safe alternative treatment and preventative for many ailments.
  • Cryotherapy can be unpleasant, particularly for people who are unaccustomed to the cold.

Safety and what to expect

The most popular form of cryotherapy involves sitting in a cryotherapy booth for 3–5 minutes.

Some people undergo cryotherapy facials, which apply cold to the face only. Others use a cryotherapy wand to target specific areas, such as a painful joint.

Most people use the term cryotherapy to refer to whole-body cryotherapy.

What are the benefits of cryotherapy?

Research may eventually undermine other purported benefits of cryotherapy. However, preliminary studies suggest that cryotherapy may offer the following benefits:

1. Pain relief and muscle healing

Cryotherapy can help with muscle pain, as well as some joint and muscle disorders, such as arthritis. It may also promote faster healing of athletic injuries.

Doctors have long recommended using ice packs on injured and painful muscles. Doing so may increase blood circulation after the ice pack is removed, promoting healing and pain relief.

study published in 2000 found that cryotherapy offered temporary relief from the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. The research found that cryotherapy with ice packs could reduce the damaging effects of intense exercise. People who used cryotherapy also reported less pain.

Another 2017 study also supports the benefits of cryotherapy for relieving muscle pain and speeding healing. However, the study found that cold water immersion was more effective than whole-body cryotherapy.

Not all studies support the role of cryotherapy in muscle healing. A 2015 Cochrane Review looked at four studies of cryotherapy for the relief of muscle pain and found no significant benefits.

2. Weight Loss

Cryotherapy alone will not cause weight loss, but it could support the process. In theory, being cold forces the body to work harder to stay warm.

Some cryotherapy providers claim that a few minutes of cold can increase metabolism all day. Eventually, they claim, people no longer feel cold because their metabolism has adjusted and increased in response to the cold temperature.

small 2016 study found no significant changes in body composition after 10 sessions of cryotherapy.

Because cryotherapy helps with muscle pain, it could make it easier to get back to a fitness routine following an injury. This potential weight loss benefit is limited to people who cannot or will not exercise because of pain.

3. Reduced inflammation

Inflammation is one way the immune system fights infection. Sometimes the immune system becomes overly reactive. The result is chronic inflammation, which is linked to health problems, such as cancerdiabetesdepressiondementia, and arthritis.

As such, reducing inflammation could also improve overall health and reduce the risk of numerous chronic ailments.

Some studies suggest that cryotherapy can reduce inflammation. However, most research has been done on rats, so to confirm the data, more research is needed on people.

4. Preventing dementia

If cryotherapy reduces inflammation, it could also reduce the risk of developing dementia.

2012 paper puts forward the possibility of cryotherapy being able to reduce the inflammation and oxidative stress associated with dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and other age-related forms of cognitive decline.

5. Preventing and treating cancer

Because whole body cryotherapy might reduce inflammation, it is possible it could also lower the risk of developing cancer.

So far, there is no evidence that cryotherapy can treat cancer once the disease has developed. However, medical cryotherapy is a well-established treatment for certain forms of cancer.

A doctor might use cryotherapy to freeze off cancer cells on the skin or cervix and occasionally to remove other cancers.

6. Reducing anxiety and depression

Research findings that cryotherapy may reduce inflammation suggest that it could treat mental health conditions linked to inflammation. Some preliminary research on cryotherapy and mental health also supports this claim.

small 2008 study found that in a third of people with depression or anxiety, cryotherapy reduced symptoms by at least 50 percent. This was a much greater reduction than in people who did not undergo cryotherapy.

7. Improving symptoms of eczema

The chronic inflammatory skin condition known as eczema can cause intensely itchy patches of dry skin. A small 2008 study of people with eczema had participants stop using eczema medications. They then tried cryotherapy. Many of them saw improvements in their eczema symptoms, though some complained of frostbite on small areas of the skin.

8. Treating Migraine Headaches

Targeted cryotherapy that focuses on the neck may help prevent migraine headaches. In a 2013 study, researchers applied cryotherapy to the necks of people who had migraines. The treatment reduced but did not eliminate their pain.


Anecdotal evidence suggests cryotherapy may help with a range of concerns, including slowing or reversing skin aging, supporting fat loss, preventing chronic diseases, and others.

Originally posted at Medical News Today

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4 Reasons Why Cryotherapy is Better Than an Ice Bath

1. How Your Body Reacts

The benefits of Whole Body Cryotherapy are significantly different to that of an ice bath. While submerged in icy water, your body attempts to keep the skin’s surface from freezing by sending warm blood to the peripheral tissues. During this 15-25 minute process, the body is constantly fighting the physical cold. Your blood begins to cool as it reaches your skin tissues, which results in a decrease in your core body temperature. Overexposure can result in muscle tissue damage and even hypothermia in severe cases.

With Cryotherapy, your skin temperature will be the only part of your body that cools down temporarily. When the skin receptors sense the sudden change in temperature, the body naturally constricts your veins and sends blood from the skin, muscles and surrounding joint spaces to the body’s core. As the blood begins to circulate through the cardiovascular system, it is cleansed of toxins and enriched with several different nutrients. Upon exiting the chamber, the body instantly vasodilates, which sends the cleansed and fortified blood to the rest of the body.


2. Time and Convenience

Let’s face it, when it comes to recovery the majority of us just don’t have time for it. In fact, most of us barely have time to squeeze in a workout. Finding time for a 20-30 minute ice bath is very difficult, not to mention hauling 40lbs of ice to your bath tub. A single Cryotherapy session only takes 2-3 minutes, and will be much more effective for your recovery. You can be in and out of a Cryotherapy appointment within 10 minutes and get on with the rest of your day. Ice baths require a change of wardrobe and a 20-30 minute thaw out period.


3. Cleanliness

If you take ice baths at a training center, the majority of the tubs are re-used for each session. Most athletes will pour out some water and add ice after the previous session. These are often athletes who have just finished a workout and are sweaty and dirty. Because of this, people have been known to acquire staph infections and other hygienic issues. A Cryotherapy chamber is virtually untouched by clients whom are wearing gloves as well as socks and slippers. This makes the whole experience much more sanitary than your ordinary ice bath.


4. Pain Level

Any athlete that is used to taking ice baths will say that Whole Body Cryotherapy is a walk in the park! Standing in a dry cold chamber for 3 minutes is so much easier than sitting in a wet ice bath for 15-25 minutes. If you don’t believe us, come try it out for yourself!

Book your cryotherapy session today:  https://gocryosd.com/booknow/

How does Whole Body Cryotherapy impact the Circulatory System?

When the skin’s surface is introduced to the -200ºF temperatures during Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC),  the cold sensors in the skin send a strong signal to the brain that triggers an “emergency survival mode” response. The body then immediately constricts blood flow in the outer layers of the body, which sends all of that blood to your body’s core where it is circulated through an “internal cycle” and kept warm. While in this “emergency survival mode,”  all of your body’s resources and reserves are activated, and your body’s innate self-healing abilities are put into overdrive. This results in your blood being enriched with the additional oxygen, nutrients, enzymes, and hormones that are needed for survival under these “perceived” extreme circumstances.

When you finish your WBC treatment, your body senses that it is no longer in danger of freezing and opens up all of the blood vessels in your peripheral tissues. This allows all of that nutrient-rich blood to rush back out to your skin and extremities where it can be effectively used for self healing.

Besides the obvious benefits of having nutrient rich blood flow through all of your internal organs and then out to your skin and extremities, the “emergency mode response” triggered by WBC may also result in more efficient removal of dead cells from the body, more effective rejuvenation of your internal organs, more effective toxin removal from subcutaneous levels, and more effective cell renewal throughout your body.

Let’s be honest, the reason young people heal faster than older people is because they have better blood flow and more nutrient rich blood. By stimulating such a powerful flow of nutrient-rich blood throughout all levels of your body, WBC is simply assisting your body in its constant efforts to heal itself.


Book your cryotherapy session today:  https://gocryosd.com/booknow/

Cryotherapy For Post Injury Recovery

With Whole Body Cryotherapy, your skin gets really cold, really fast. This naturally induces a huge circulatory response in the body that constricts your veins and sends the majority of the blood to your core. This response tremendously slows down the release of white blood cells into the body (white blood cells cause pain, inflammation, and impede healing).

Anyone recovering from any injury or surgery can tremendously benefit from Cryotherapy!


Book your cryotherapy session today:  https://gocryosd.com/booknow/

The 3 Phases of Whole Body Cryotherapy


2-3 minutes in a Cryo Chamber at -240° F results in a vaso-constriction effect of the blood vessels in the skin surface and muscles. This forces blood away from the peripheral tissues and into the core of the body where it circulates through all of the major organs.

This process triggers a heightened state of toxin removal and anti-inflammation as the body’s natural filtration systems work in overdrive and its “emergency survival mode” systems are called into action.


After exiting the Cryo Chamber, the filtered, nutrient-rich, highly oxygenated blood flows back to out the peripheral tissues where it warms and reinvigorates the skin and muscles.


Over the next 48 hours, restoration and recovery occur at at very high level and your body burns up to 800 additional calories. This is when your body does its magic, reducing pain & inflammation, increasing vitality, and shortening recovery times.

Book your cryotherapy session today:  https://gocryosd.com/booknow/

How does Whole Body Cryotherapy compare to an Ice Bath?

Ice baths have been used for decades by athletes to speed up recovery and reduce inflammation. Although both ice baths and Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) rely on the body’s response to cold to induce any benefits, they actual affect the body in completely different ways.

Below is a list of ways in which they differ:

  • Ice baths are much more painful to endure.
  • During a 15-20 minute ice bath, tissue actually freezes and muscles lose capacity, so there is a much longer rest period required after an ice bath before an athlete can get back to training (typically athletes have to wait until the following day to resume training after an ice bath).
  • With WBC, tissues do not freeze and muscles do not lose capacity, so athletes can get back to training as quickly as 15 minutes after a treatment.
  • Whole Body Cryotherapy relies simply on the “illusion” of the body being frozen to create a reaction that leads to the benefits people experience.
  • Ice baths actually causes damage to the skin surface. WBC does not.

In general, WBC is safer, easier to endure, and more effective than ice baths.


Book your cryotherapy session today:  https://gocryosd.com/booknow/

How going in a -130 degree chamber could help your body…

To most people being in a -130 degree chamber like structure for three minutes doesn’t sound so appealing, but if you have some muscle aches and pains, inflammation in your body or even some extra pounds you want to shed, maybe you should think again.

Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is a holistic wellness solution that enables the human body to recover and rejuvenate itself naturally. During cryotherapy, the body is exposed to extremely low temperatures (for one – three minutes) to trigger the body’s most powerful mechanisms of self-protection, self-recovery and self-rejuvenation.

Thrive CryoStudio in Rockville, Maryland specializes in Cryotherapy. The studio has seen over 1,400 clients and has conducted over 5,000 cryotherapy sessions. I sat down with owner Brandon Yu to get the 411 on what cryotherapy is and the science behind this new craze.

How does cryotherapy work? 

Whole Body Cryotherapy uses ultra-cooled nitrogen gas application to lower the client’s skin temperature to 30 degrees fahrenheit for one to three minutes. At first, your body reacts like it normally would if you were standing outside on a cold day, by increasing circulation in your body to try and warm your body up. After about 45-60 seconds, your body realizes that it’s not doing an effective job of warming up, due to the continuous nitrogen vapor hitting your skin.

Next, as the thermoreceptors in the skin send messages to the brain and central nervous system the body goes into “Survival Mode” by sending hyper-oxygenated and nutritious blood via vasoconstriction to the body’s vital organs in its core. After exiting the ultra-cooled environment, the body begins to warm to its natural temperature and vasodilation occurs, sending the oxygenated and nutritious blood back out to the body’s periphery. This process provides the body with extra nutrients, rids the body of toxins, produces collagen, and activates the body’s natural cell regeneration cycle to produce newer, healthier cells.

What are some of the benefits?

As this is a holistic wellness treatment, there are a wide ranging amount of benefits to cryotherapy, as long as the client sticks to their recommended treatment plan. We like to group the benefits into three main categories:

Sports & Fitness:

  • Accelerates muscle recovery
  • Increases energy
  • Reduces muscle soreness and inflammation
  • Relieves tendonitis pain
  • Improves muscle strength and joint function
  • Quickens recovery time from injuries
  • Increases athletic performance

Health & Wellness:

  • Reduces inflammation in the body
  • Helps relieve back pain, joint pain, knee pain and general pain and tightness throughout the body
  • Alleviates symptoms of arthritis, Lymes disease, fibromyalgia
  • Reduces effects of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema
  • Reduces severity of migraine headaches
  • Increases blood circulation and provides a quicker recovery time from surgeries and physical therapy

Mind, Mood & Beauty:

  • Increases metabolism and burns calories (between 500-800 calories)
  • Promotes better quality sleep
  • Increases endorphin levels and boosts mood
  • Increases collagen production and reduces the appearance of cellulite
  • Accelerates weight loss (with proper diet and exercise)

How should your body feel immediately after, an hour or two after, and about 24 hours after?

Cryotherapy is not a magic pill, so individuals should not expect to feel “like a new person” or a huge dramatic difference after their first session. However, after a single session, clients can expect to feel a bit looser and relaxed. They might even have temporary relief from some minor pain they were experiencing (for more consistent pain, it’ll take multiple sessions). Additionally, clients can expect to fall into one of two buckets on how they’ll feel the rest of the day. They will feel either 1) super energized and feel like they’re ready to take on whatever comes their way during the day, or 2) they’ll feel super relaxed, calm and even may want to take an afternoon nap. Both of these responses are normal. Additionally, clients may notice a much better nights sleep the night of their cryotherapy treatment.

With regards to benefits that are more noticeable, on average it takes about eight sessions for a client to feel a “noticeable” difference in their pain levels, muscle recovery, etc. As I mentioned, it’s not a magic pill, but if done consistently, most of clients have seen tremendous results!

How often do you recommend someone get cryotherapy?

The recommended frequency for someone to get cryotherapy honestly varies from person to person and condition to condition. At Thrive CryoStudio, we really take the time to listen, educate and consult each client that walks into the door to recommend a tailored cryotherapy treatment plan for his or her condition. We also monitor their progress and how the client feels after each cryotherapy session in case we need to tweak their frequency. With that being said, we have some clients that come everyday and others that come once every two weeks.

Who is the ideal candidate for cryotherapy?

Many people associate the use of cryotherapy with professional athletes or even on “The Real Housewives” because that’s where they’ve seen it. With that being said, most of your everyday people can benefit from cryotherapy. For the high school athletes to the middle-aged runner, cryotherapy will greatly benefit them in their muscle recovery, while reducing inflammation in their joints from the wear and tear they’re putting on their body.

Also, for those individuals that are suffering from nagging neck, back, hip, knee or any other pain, cryotherapy will greatly benefit them.

Any risks clients should be aware of? 

Cryotherapy can raise your blood pressure. We check all clients’ blood pressure immediately prior to each of their sessions and will not allow them to proceed if their blood pressure is too high. In addition, clients must keep their heads and chins up while in the cryotherapy tank to avoid breathing in the nitrogen fumes which can cause lightheadedness. At Thrive Cryostudio, a therapist is with our clients throughout their treatment session, constantly engaging them in conversation to ensure they don’t experience any adverse side effects. If there is any concern, the treatment is stopped immediately.

What’s one misconception about cryotherapy you’d like people to understand?

Cryotherapy is not a magic pill. Its benefits are wide reaching and include everything from weight loss to pain management to improved sleep, anxiety and skin. However, while many clients have a post-treatment euphoria and a report increased energy after only one session, it typically takes several sessions to reap the greatest benefit.


Book your cryotherapy session today:  https://gocryosd.com/booknow/

Whole-body cryotherapy: what are the cold hard facts

Immersing oneself in air frozen to as low as -160C has its sporting champions – including Leicester City and the Welsh rugby team – but does it stand up to scientific scrutiny?

What do sports stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Jamie Vardy and Sam Warburton have in common? It is nothing to do with goals, tries or fast cars. All three regularly undergo whole-body cryotherapy, an extreme-cold treatment that proponents say can speed recovery, reduce injuries, increase energy and improve sleep.

Two major sporting achievements have helped drive a boom in its use. Some saw it as a decisive factor in the Welsh rugby union team reaching the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, while others believe it helped Leicester City overcome odds of 5,000-1 to win last season’s Premier League title. Today, it is used at the top level in many sports and is increasingly being marketed to keen amateurs seeking an edge.

Beauty salons and spas claim it can burn calories, improve our skin and make us happier. Almost inevitably, Lindsay Lohan, Jennifer Aniston and Daniel Craig are reported to be fans. So far, so profitable. But does whole-body cryotherapy work? Or more realistically, are the claims made for it supported by sound scientific evidence?

If you have ever put a bag of frozen peas on an injury, you have used cryotherapy. The use of cold in medicine has a long history, from freezing warts and killing cancer cells, to slowing metabolic processes during trauma surgery. Whole-body cryotherapy takes place in sauna-style, walk-in chambers, with sessions normally lasting just two or three minutes. Those using liquid nitrogen to cool the air inside them can get down as low as -160C.

First developed in Japan, the therapy arrived in Europe in the 80s. In Poland, it is used to treat many conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, sleep disorders and depression.

“It helps recovery and rehabilitation processes,” says Ian Saunders, co-founder of CryoAction, a UK company that supplies many top rugby and football teams with cryotherapy facilities. “Vasoconstriction reduces blood flow to the extremities, which reduces inflammation around soft-tissue injuries, stopping them progressing. The release of adrenalin relieves pain and generates the feelings of exhilaration that players report.”

The evidence from scientific studies, however, is mixed. In 2015, a small German study found endurance athletes recovered more quickly and were able to perform better in the second of two running tests separated by an hour if they underwent whole-body cryotherapy in between. A Cochrane review – the gold standard in healthcare evidence – pooled the results of four previous studies involving 64 physically active adults and concluded there was insufficient evidenceto support its use to relieve muscle soreness after exercise.

“We saw some potential in the initial evidence of beneficial effects, but until more evidence and better-quality studies are published, we can’t say for sure whether it is effective or not,” says Dr Joseph Costello, lead author of the Cochrane review and senior lecturer in exercise physiology at the University of Portsmouth.

Proponents say whole-body cryotherapy activates the body’s “fight or flight” mechanisms, driving extra energy to muscles and narrowing blood vessels so that fewer inflammation-causing white blood cells reach injuries. Extreme cold may have some of these effects, but some of the claims made for the treatment on this basis are extrapolations based on flimsy and often contradictory evidence. Another company, 111Cryo, has launched 3-minute whole-body cryotherapy sessions in both Harvey Nichols and Harrods in London in the last year, claiming these can boost focus, determination and energy levels, as well as improving skin tone and burning up to 800 calories. Of the calorie-burning claim, 111Cryo founder Dr Yannis Alexandrides, a Harley Street plastic surgeon, admits: “It’s an extrapolation, not medical data.”

One French study found the therapy had no significant effect on adrenalin levels. Some research has suggested it reduces levels of inflammation markers and the stress hormone cortisol, while increasing testosterone, but other studies have produced contradictory results.

The BMI private hospital in Hendon, north London, charges £50 for a whole-body cryotherapy session and states that it can help treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, tendinitis, muscle strains and back pain”. The US Food and Drug Administration last year stated there was insufficient evidence to support such claims.

The therapy certainly lowers tissue temperatures. A 2014 study carried out on rugby players found it caused falls of up to 12C on the skinAnother study recorded drops in muscle temperature of between 1.2C to 1.6C.

Of course, there are other ways to cool the body. Tennis star Andy Murray and other athletes swear by sitting in cold, or even ice-filled, baths after exertion to ease pain and recovery. Research published last month found men who underwent cold-water immersion at 8C for 10 minutes saw greater drops in tissue temperatures and bloodflow than those who did whole body cryotherapy at -110C for two minutes.

So if greater effects can be achieved with cold water, why bother with whole body cryotherapy? “We’re yet to find anybody who says they prefer the invasive, penetrative cold of cold water immersion to being in a cryotherapy chamber,” says Saunders.

So what does it actually feel like? I went to the Saracens rugby union team training ground in St Albans to find out. Bare-chested and in shorts, knee-length socks, a woolly hat, gloves and a face mask, I spent two-and-a-half minutes in a CryoAction chamber, which reached -125C. It was cold, similar to being near an open chest freezer. I felt no exhilaration and my aches from a run the previous day were still present two days later.

Perhaps my problem was scepticism. Research has shown that when patients attend a medical facility and are told a procedure can reduce pain, this can itself boost levels of neurotransmitters that can improve symptoms. “Even if whole-body cryotherapy isn’t having any direct physiological impact, someone who believes it is doing so might experience a powerful placebo effect that could be beneficial to recovery,” says Costello.

Costello remains open-minded about the therapy’s powers pending further research, but points out amateurs can probably achieve more by focusing on the basics. “Interventions such as cryotherapy are 1%-ers that elite athletes, for whom such margins are important, might want to explore. Recreational athletes might be better focusing on the 99%-ers – rest, rehydration, refuelling and allowing the appropriate time to repair.”

This article appears in the July 24, 2017 issue of The Guardian

Should You Try Whole Body Cryotherapy?

LEASHA WEST’S BODY HAS been through the wringer.

As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former combat instructor, she hiked 15-plus miles several times a week with a 150-pound pack on her back. The bottoms of her feet turned raw and blistered, her toenails fell off, her legs went numb. “It’s not uncommon to have blood in your stool” from the training regimen, says West, who served from 1998 to 2002. “My body took a serious beating.”

But the 42-year-old – who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and spends her winters in Texas – hasn’t stopped. In addition to running her own insurance agency, she regularly runs, lifts weights and swims.

And, for three minutes every morning for the past two months, she’s stepped, nearly naked, into a negative 250 degree F (or colder) chamber. That’s more than twice as cold as dry ice.

“It’s the best way to start [the day],” says West, who pays $269 a month for unlimited treatments – called whole body cryotherapy – although single sessions can run up to $100 in some areas of the country. What for? Initially, to ease her back pain and muscle stiffness after hearing rave reviews from her professional athlete clients. But West also appreciates its added benefits. Namely: more energy and focus, a boosted metabolism, improved tolerance to cold and pain, faster-growing hair and nails, younger-looking skin and sounder sleep – even though she never had a problem snoozing to begin with. “You will not believe the crazy energy it gives you,” she says.

Whole body cryotherapy, which essentially means “cold treatment,” is a procedure that exposes the body to temperatures colder than negative 200 degrees F for two to four minutes. While it’s been used to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis in Japan since the late 1970s, it’s only been used in Western countries for the past few decades, primarily to alleviate muscle soreness for elite athletes, according to a 2015 paper in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

But now, it’s being promoted by spas as a way to lose weight, improve skin, boost mood and more – despite the fact that it’s not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and isn’t intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” according to Cryohealthcare, a company that makes cryotherapy equipment.

“Cryotherapy is well-established for treatment of athletic injuries,” says Dr. Jon Schriner, the medical director of the Michigan Center for Athletic Medicine in Flushing, Michigan. “To carry it into weight loss and other benefits is not mainstream.”

But people like West swear by it. While it feels cold right away, the time passes quickly, she says. “You’re going to get the shivers; you’re not going to feel like you’re frozen,” she says, noting that the treatment just penetrates the skin, so the organs stay safe. Plus, West adds, “you can open the door at any moment to get out.”

Article originally posted in U.S. News by Anna Medaris Miller


Book your cryotherapy session today:  https://gocryosd.com/booknow/

6 Benefits Of Cryotherapy For The Body And Soul

This deep freeze helps to stimulate the brain and squash inflammation

My first cryotherapy session could be described as a scene from a science fiction novel. I was asked to strip down and was given socks, shoes, and gloves. The cryosauna machine, which looks similar to a stand-up tanning booth, was towering in the middle of a room. After I stepped into the cryosauna, I rang a bell and the attendant, Debra, came back into the room.

Then the real experience began.

To say I was not shocked by the sudden cold would be a lie. My head was above the chamber, so I could see around me at all times and I could exit if needed because nothing was locked. I was told that many first-timers cannot make it to a minute, let alone the designated three.

For me, the secret to endurance was listening to Debra’s voice as she explained what was happening to me, allowing me to concentrate more on her words than the cold. That said, it was a “dry” cold, and as strange as it might seem, it was tolerable.

Cold Hard Facts on Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy was originally developed in Japan in 1978 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and the benefits have been studied and refined in Europe since that time. Cryotherapy is now utilized in the United States, and with wonderful results.

Most cryosaunas uses liquid nitrogen, lowering the client’s skin temperature to about 30 to 50 degrees F in a period of two or three minutes. Liquid nitrogen is used to make the cold, but clients are not in direct contact with the gas. Our skin reacts to the cold, sending messages to the brain, and it stimulates regulatory functions of the body, assisting areas that might not be working to their fullest potential.

According to Excel Cryotherapy located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “Cryotherapy is a hyper-cooling process that lowers a person’s skin temperature to approximately 30 degrees F for a period of up to three minutes by enveloping the body with extremely cold air at temperatures ranging from -100 F to -274 F. (Liquid nitrogen is used to cool the body, and reduces inflammation.)”

During this time, thermoreceptors in the skin send signals to the brain to send the blood to the core to maintain body temperature with a process called vasoconstriction. Toxins are flushed from peripheral tissues and blood is enriched with oxygen, enzymes, and nutrients. The body activates all of its natural healing abilities and releases endorphins for further benefit.

As the body warms up again, the enriched blood flows back through the body through a process called vasodilation. As a result, whole body cryotherapy is very effective for athletic recovery and muscle repair, reduction of chronic pain and inflammation, and an overall enhancement of health and wellness.

There are in fact two types of cryotherapy: whole body cooling and partial body cooling. I used a partial body cooling therapy at Excel Cryotherapy, where my head was out of the chamber. I experienced positive results.

However, because we have heating receptors in our chest and head, some argue that whole body cooling gives a greater autonomic response, with higher cellular activation. According to a study, partial body cooling gives a lesser autonomic response, with less cellular activation. Whole body does not use liquid nitrogen but is more of a very sophisticated smart fridge.

Next Health, located in Los Angeles, California, has a whole-body cryotherapy chamber. This chamber allows the head to be included in the therapy. You can also wear headphones and listen to music for three minutes or go in with a friend! According to Vanessa Kekina from Next Health, “The many benefits of cryotherapy include reduced inflammation, accelerated sports recovery, improved sleep, elevated mood, brain power/mental alertness and vigilance, as well as collagen and antioxidant synthesis.”

Whole body cryotherapy involves exposing your body to an extreme cold environment of -150 degrees F and less. This intense cooling induces a number of giant physiologic changes in your body. Initially, as the blood vessels constrict, blood moves away from the limbs and towards the vital organs of the body. This is a protective and natural measure that the body takes in response to extreme cold. In the process, several systems within the body are affected and it is here that the benefits begin.

The immune system increases the white blood cell count causing reduced inflammation and a positive, powerful immune system response. Circulation is improved and water weight is reduced as the circulatory system reacts. The endocrine system jumps into action with an endorphin and noradrenaline release and an increase of “feel good” hormones in the blood stream. A reduction in cortisol has been seen in blood sample studies as well as an increase in testosterone and DHEA. A cryotherapy session induces a total systemic response that offers many advantages: reduced pain, increased recovery, improved muscle strength and hormone production for example.

“The healing time is different for everyone,” adds Wendi Michelle, Vice President of Operations at Next Health. “Someone who is looking for energy and improved sleep will benefit more quickly than perhaps someone who is treating a condition … Someone who has been in pain for years and finally feels relief will consider this an instant therapy even if the pain returns.”

There are only a handful of whole-body cryotherapy locations in the U.S.

While most cryotherapy saunas use liquid nitrogen, and are easier to find, a plethora of benefits are experienced with both types of saunas.

And all of this healing can start to happen in three minutes, sometimes less. According to a pain study regarding patients with rheumatoid disease, cold therapy reduced pain significantly. When cryotherapy becomes regular practice, inflammation and chronic pain is reduced and joints work better.

According to Cryohealthcare, “Whole body Cryotherapy is very well tolerated and has minimal risks.

Here in the United States, cryotherapy has only been implemented in the past 10 years. It’s used for various conditions: from muscle recovery for athletes, to cancer treatment.

Chronic Medical Conditions

According to Polar Cryotherapy, “European medical studies have shown that Whole Body Cryotherapy can help alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, ankylosing spondylitis, ankylosing spondylosis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, dermatitis and osteoporosis. Studies in Europe have also shown that whole body cryotherapy is beneficial in the treatment of mood disorders, anxiety, and depression.”

Temperature Stress

“Cryotherapy induces a short duration temperature stress to the body,” explains Dimitris Tsoukalas, M.D., leading expert in the application of Metabolomics and Nutritional Medicine in chronic and autoimmune diseases, as well as the author of How To Live 150 Years In Health. The hormones released during stress — cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine — increase our ability to withstand pain, fatigue, and hunger. They also decrease inflammation and related symptoms.”

Dr. Tsoukalas goes on to state that appropriate responsiveness to cold, mental stress, physical strain, dehydration, fasting, etc. is a crucial prerequisite for a sense of well-being, adequate performance of tasks, and positive social interactions. He explains that a pioneering Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye first observed stress and defined it as ‘the nonspecific response of the body to any demand for change.’”

When I first heard of cryotherapy, I hesitated. Could cold therapy really be beneficial? Yes, yes, and yes! I can’t believe I waited so long to stumble into this magnificent healing machine. I’ll tell you later what I personally experienced, but first, here are six ways cryotherapy can boost your health:

1. Decreases Inflammation

I sought out cryotherapy because of a 10 year-old torn rotator cuff and a slap-tear, which is a detachment, or tear, of the upper portion of the cartilage rim surrounding the socket bone of the shoulder. For various reasons, I do not use medications and since I have tried various chiropractic, Chinese Medicine, and massage therapy treatments, this was next in line.

Ice, when applied to a specific area of the body, reduces inflammation, such as when you have a bruise. Cryotherapy, however, reduces inflammation throughout the body, so that healing can occur in more than one area at a time. If you have an injury on the arm and leg, for example, cryotherapy will automatically target these areas. Cryotherapy also stimulates the vagus nerve, reducing anxiety and fatigue. According to Mental Floss, the vagus nerve is literally the captain of your inner nerve center — the parasympathetic nervous system, to be specific. And like a good captain, it does a great job of overseeing a vast range of crucial functions, communicating nerve impulses to every organ in your body. New research has revealed that it may also be the missing link to treating chronic inflammation, and the beginning of an exciting new field of treatment that leaves medications behind. Stimulation of the vagus nerve also helps reduce anxiety and fatigue.

2. Increases Performance Levels

Many athletes use cryotherapy because the treatment can help them recover from their activity. Since joint and muscle strength is increased, athletes can sports-train sooner, improving outcomes. Because the muscles and tissues are not frozen, one can start exercising immediately. Enriched blood flows back through the body, through vasodilation. Unlike ice baths, muscles don’t need time to recover after cryotherapy.

3. Increased Metabolism

After a session of cryotherapy, it takes a lot of energy to reheat the body. During a three minute treatment, you burn approximately 500 to 800 calories. When skin is cooled to around 35 degrees F, it requires a lot of energy to reheat it to our regular body temperature.

4. Reduction Of Chronic Pain and Fatigue

For those that suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or general body pain, cryotherapy reduces both. Some people experience a few hours of relief, while others enjoy a relief that lasts days, and even longer. Each individual is different, so results vary, but most participants feel that three minutes of cold is worth the hours of pain relief later. One study regarding fibromyalgia patients showed that after 15 sessions of cryotherapy, pain levels were improved.

5. Happiness Boost

Rather than reach out for antidepressants, many opt for cryotherapy instead. That’s because the procedure releases endorphins into the bloodstream, and one feels their mood increasing after a cryotherapy session. The endorphins interact with pain receptors, reducing pain perception. Cortisol levels are reduced, and one feels, well … happier.

6. Boosts Collagen

Debra told me a few more things about how with regular treatments, cryotherapy can help lessen the appearance of wrinkles, increasing the skin’s collagen. According to Restore Cryotherapy, “Routine cryotherapy treatments can help rejuvenate the collagen matrix, improving skin’s resilience and reducing the appearance of cellulite and fatty deposits at the skin’s surface.”

Benefits Continue

Debra stated that everyone’s body reacts differently to the treatment. Some people become energized, and some become very lethargic. I was somewhat in the middle, but I had more of a relaxed aura to me, and it was very pleasant.

Initially, my injured arm had much more range-of-motion, and that night, I slept better than I had in years. Throughout the afternoon, I went through periods of being warm and then cold, but it was all a pleasant experience. The following day my skin was red in places and my sinuses seemed to be clearer, which I attribute to the toxins being released in my body.

Several weeks later, I returned for three additional cryotherapy sessions. For me, the effects of the first cryotherapy treatment lasted about a week. It was explained to me that about two treatments a week for a month could provide effects lasting several months. All total, I have had four sessions of cryotherapy, and I definitely feel like my body has been re-set, hormonally speaking, and the muscles that were giving me pain feel better. Specifically, this pre-menopausal body has had her hormones reset, and I like the results.

Three minutes of freezing cold is worth the plethora of benefits, which also includes improved sleep, clearer skin, and improved range of motion in my injured shoulder. Keep your eye on the prize (better health) and anything is doable!


This article originally appears on honey colony by Katherine Darlington