Why Whole Body Cryotherapy Is the Latest Wellness Trend Ruling Hollywood

Cryotherapy, generally speaking, is the use of extremely cold temperatures to treat an array of issues; if you’ve ever had a wart frozen off or taken an ice bath to soothe post-yoga soreness, you’ve technically experienced it. Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC), a treatment which involves enclosing oneself in a controlled environment with temperatures of at least -230 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes, originated in Japan in the 1970’s to treat Arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Its apparent physiological, emotional, and beauty benefits have since made it popular among professional athletes, celebrities, and trend-loving wellness buffs.

Much of the existing research on Cryotherapy focuses on its effects on muscle repair and athletic performance. Sports teams including the New York Knicks apparently have their own tanks, and stars including Kobe Bryant and LeBron take the plunge to speed recovery and enhance performance. A study conducted by the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance, found that Whole Body Cryotherapy significantly decreases pro-inflammatory cytokines, which equals decreased aches and pains and faster recovery from muscle trauma.

While a growing number of doctors and researchers are on board with Cryotherapy for sports injury treatment, the scientific jury is still out for its other uses. According to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Aaron Farberg, who conducted a study on the effects of Cryotherapy on skin rejuvenation, there is no sufficient evidence that it increases collagen production, despite claims from Cryo-spas and celebrities including Jessica Alba and Jennifer Aniston touting its anti-aging benefits. As for Cryotherapy’s effects on mood, many participants in Farberg’s study reported euphoric feelings and increased energy levels immediately post-treatment, though Farberg notes the evidence is, so far, purely anecdotal.

So, I gave it a try. I walk into KryoLife, an unassuming clinic tucked away in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Adorned with succulents, tables fashioned from petrified wood, and organic teas with names like “calm” and “detox”, the breezy clinic is not unlike a trendy Brooklynite’s apartment. I’m greeted by a model-esq receptionist who, in her Australian lilt, tells me to follow her into a room where I’m to strip down to my underwear. I’m given two pairs of super-thick socks, a robe, mittens, a towel, and a pair of rubber slippers. “Make sure you dry off completely,” she warns as she closes the door behind me; moisture increases the risk of frostbite, as per the medical waiver I’d signed moments before. I break out in a nervous sweat, which I attempt to quell with the hand towel I’d be given– to no avail. “I’m nervous” I peep, as I reemerge into the lobby, robe-clad. “This happens a lot with first-timers,” she assures me with a smile. “Just relax and dry off.”

10 minutes and a few breathing exercises later, I feel as ready as I’ll ever be. I enter the treatment room to an ethereally handsome man whom, I’m told, will operate the Cryo machine while surveying me. (I wonder, half-seriously, why a Cryotherapy practice would hire someone who looks like that: Surely his presence increases the risk of sweating, and thus frostbite?)

The chamber itself looks like some sort of galactic, futuristic coffin; a cylindrical vessel padded with material reminiscent of lunchbox interior. The technician activates the chamber and Nitrogen vapor billows out in intimidating white clouds. Perhaps because he sees fear flooding my face, or perhaps because it’s policy, he assures me that the Nitrogen is safe at such a low concentration. The only rule: Keep my head bobbing above the chamber to avoid dizziness or, god forbid, fainting.

I step in and derobe. I’m naked with the exception of socks, mittens, and underwear. The capsule is chilly, but not at all unpleasant; one could even argue it’s a respite from the sweltering New York City heat. Before I know it–the Cryo is complete. I’m handed my robe and a piping hot cup of detox tea, as I’m led to a stationary bike, where I start pedaling to reinstate blood flow to my limbs.

The theory is this: Exposure to extremely cold temperatures activates the body’s fight or flight response, which diverts blood flow from extremities (arms, legs) to the vital organs to protect them from freezing. Meanwhile, blood leaves any inflamed, injured areas. Upon returning to normal temperatures, reoxygenated blood pumps through the body, leaving you feeling revitalized and refreshed.

After surviving the Nitrogen tank, I found myself craving more Cryo. I ended up at The Fuel Stop; a trendy Cryo-centric wellness center whose celeb-studded Instagram is incentive enough to check it out. The founder of The Fuel Stop, Mila–a seemingly ageless woman–greets me as if I were an old friend. I’d spoken to her about the possibility of coming in for a Cryo treatment and she’d insisted I stop by to try the latest and greatest in Cryo tech: A full-body chamber. Unlike the traditional Nitrogen tanks, the chamber’s technology allows you to breathe ambient air in an actual Cryo room.

But why bypass the traditional Nitrogen tank and subject yourself to an entire room of subzero temperatures? Mila explains she’d used the Nitrogen tank for years, but felt she wasn’t receiving WBC’s full benefits. “It’s like going into a sauna and leaving your head out” she shrugs. As per her research, immersing your head into the extreme temperature stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the top of your head all the way down your spine, and is responsible for regulating the body’s nervous systems. Stimulating the vagus nerve, she explains, regulates everything from mood, energy levels, and immunity.

Scantily clad, I step into the chamber, which is about the size of a walk-in closet. DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” plays through speakers (I’d chosen the song before my treatment) and I shimmy as if I’m not prickly and numb. Admittedly, the whole-body treatment is miles more uncomfortable than the Nitrogen tank–an almost lung-crushing cold at the two minute mark– but I keep my eyes on Mila, who is dancing along with me on the other side of the glass. After three minutes, I practically fly out of the chamber, numb, wobbly, and–to my surprise–grinning uncontrollably. I feel unexplainably energized yet zen, as if I’ve chugged a vat of coffee while lying in savasana. The “Cyro High” is real, and it’s truly indescribable. “That’s dopamine and endorphins,” Mila beams. “I told you!”

After the treatment, I’m relaxed. It costs $75 a treatment, and, though research is limited relative to conventional treatments, Cryotherapy is one of the most all-encompassing wellness treatments to date. Besides, surviving subzero temperatures is one heck of a story to tell.

Originally published in Wmagazine by Sophie Wirt


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

Feeling Stressed – Cryotherapy Helps to Reduce Stress Levels

It’s getting towards the busy end of the year and the extra demands on our time can interfere with our healthy routines and increase our levels of stress. There are some simple stress relieving ideas that we can try, like exercise. It’s a good way of reducing stress because when endorphins are released, our mood is elevated and it helps us think more clearly.

Some people are great at maintaining their exercise regimes all year round, while for others it’s the sunshine and warmer weather that gets us back at the pool, the gym, yoga class or hitting the pavement. The problem is that aches and pains from underworked muscles or unhealed injuries can make the transition back into exercise a bit of a challenge.

Cryotherapy Treatment For Stress Relief

Whole body cryotherapy (CRYO) can help with that return to a more active lifestyle. CRYO has a holistic benefit that supports muscle and joint recovery and promotes the release of endorphins and serotonin to improve our moods and sharpen our cognitive functions. CRYO has also been recognised as having a positive, therapeutic effect on the body’s central nervous system, helping to relieve the impact of stress on the body.

CRYO sessions are beneficial when included as part of a balanced health and wellbeing routine and can aid muscle recovery and repair, motion and flexibility, stress relief and weight loss. When combined with a nutritious, healthy diet and exercise, CRYO can burn between 2000−3300 kilojoules per session and help get your body into great shape for summer.


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

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

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

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