Freeze Away Inflammation with Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy has been around in one form or another for ages: exposure to frigid air, cold-water immersion, or just applying ice to sore muscles. The ancient Romans would take plunges in frigidarium baths and the Nords would crack open icy lakes for a winter swim.

Here in modern times, cryotherapy is popular with elite athletes, celebrities, and biohackers alike. Health claims range from increased immunity to shinier hair, and more and more “cryosaunas” are popping up for personal use.

How much is hype and how much is science? Let’s take a look at what cryotherapy is and the evidence for how it works.

What is cryotherapy?

Technically “cryotherapy” could refer to any kind of cold exposure that improves performance. But it’s mostly whole body cryotherapy (WBC) that’s been in the news for claims that it can boost metabolism, increase endurance, and even help reverse depression.

WBC involves short exposure to extreme cold via a cryochamber – a human-sized tank filled with liquid nitrogen-cooled air. Exposure can vary from 2-3 minutes in temperatures that plummet to -130°C (-266°F). Another method is to take an ice bath for up to an hour in water temperatures of about 19°C (66°F).

On the surface, cold therapy works wonders for speeding up healing. When you apply ice to swollen muscles, the cold constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the area, and pain, swelling, and inflammation decrease. The original idea behind WBC was similar: expose the body to cold to reduce inflammation. It turns out WBC does that and a lot more.

Cryotherapy curbs pain and inflammation 

Dr. Toshima Yamaguchi started using cryotherapy to help his patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as far back as 1978. News of the therapy spread and quickly became popular with elite athletes in the NFL and NBA. They use it to help lower inflammation and decrease pain, acutely and over time. Cryotherapy triggers anti-inflammatory norepinephrine release that reduces short-term pain from injuries [1].  It also makes intensive physical therapy more tolerable for chronic pain from conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic back pain, and osteoarthritis. [2]

The cool thing about cryotherapy is that it can decrease inflammation while simultaneously stressing your body enough to keep your cells on their toes. Low doses of physical stress from a cold plunge can elicit an adaptive response and strengthen your immune system by increasing white blood cells and immune cells; your bolstered immune system can then kill viruses and fight off tumor factors. [3,4,5]

Short bursts of cold therapy may also increase the antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase, which help support liver and immune function, optimize cellular function, and protect against oxidative stress. [6]

Muscle soreness and recovery

Chronic low-grade inflammation is bad, but the inflammatory response you experience after exercise is actually a good sign that your body is in tissue repair mode. As your muscles become engorged with blood and a pro-inflammatory response rushes the area, anti-inflammatory cytokines hit the scene to keep your immune system in check.

This process of inflammation, tissue repair, and anti-inflammatory mediators ensures that you recover optimally and that your muscles heal and grow. Which is why some studies suggest that icing too soon after exercise actually slows your recovery post-exercise. So what about all of those elite athletes who swear by cryotherapy? Turns out the benefits may vary depending on the timing of your cold therapy.

If you interrupt your body’s pro-inflammatory response with cold therapy immediately after exercise, you may actually reduce the benefits from exercise and inhibit performance. [7] Instead of icing right away, waiting about an hour post-exercise (aka after the peak pro-inflammatory process) may improve performance and recovery. [8] In fact, WBC performed within 48 hours of an elite race (but not within an hour of the race) increased recovery, speed, and power in athletes by 20%. [9]

Collagen, the protein behind strong cartilage, joints, skin and hair, also ramps up production after cryotherapy, and collagenase, an enzyme responsible for rapid collagen breakdown, slows down. [10] While cold therapy is boosting collagen production, it’s also inhibiting the stress hormone cortisol, which works to break down collagen and can disrupt your healthy blood sugar and sleep patterns. [11]

Increased fat burning

The idea behind cryotherapy and increased fat burning is simple: the body responds to extreme cold by increasing your metabolism to heat up your body, which in turn burns fat through a process called cold thermogenesis. Cryotherapy can increase your metabolic rate by up to 350%. [12]

Long-term mild cold exposure can also increase brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of fat that is beneficial to humans. [13] Unlike other types of fat, brown fat increases metabolism, burning energy and glucose to generate heat. [14] In one study, BAT was highest in volunteers that slept in mild cold, 19°C or 66°F, which means you can boost your metabolism by cooling your room at night – a practice that may also improve sleep.

Better mood and a better night’s sleep

Cold exposure produces feel-good endorphins and increases production of norepinephrine. [15] Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in your sleep-wake cycle and has profound effects on energy, focus, mood and sleep patterns. This may be because of norepinephrine’s role in neurogenesis – the production of new neurons in the brain – which links to improved mood and memory. [16]

The rise in norepinephrine along with a decrease in cortisol supports a healthy sleep-wake cycle. [17, 18] It’s also possible that the rush of endorphins and subsequent feeling of relaxation is why so many people claim that cryotherapy is their new sleeping drug of choice.

Cold water immersion at 57°F (14°C) for 1 hour increased norepinephrine 530% and dopamine, another feel-good neurotransmitter, by 250% [19]. You can get similar effects from whole-body cryotherapy sessions at -250°F 2-3 times a week.

You don’t have to join a cryosauna or have a frozen lake nearby to get the benefits of cryotherapy. In many cases, lowering the temperature in your bedroom at night and cold bursts in the shower may help balance neurotransmitters and balance mood, while ice baths 1-hour post-exercise may help speed recovery and increase endurance. If you’re just getting into cryotherapy, you can start slow with this simple protocol. Definitely worth a try!



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Cryotherapy: Freeze your way to better health?

NEW YORK –– If you think it’s cold outside now, how about enduring temperatures that are hundreds of degrees below zero — by choice?

As CBS New York reports, more and more people are venturing to into the “frozen zone” for health and beauty.

“Everyone’s looking for the fountain of youth. Everyone’s looking for that thing that’s going to make them feel better,” spa-goer Heidi Krupp told CBS2’s Kristine Johnson.

And what makes Krupp feel better is stepping into a chamber where the temperature is an unbelievable minus 141 degrees Celsius. That’s 228 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

The treatment is known as whole body cryotherapy, a new health trend popping up across the country. It is two to three intense minutes of exposure to freezing nitrogen gas.

The extreme temperatures shock the system and is said to stimulate the immune system. In addition to saying it makes you look younger, Krupp said it’s a rush that lasts for hours — even days.

“I am addicted,” she said.

“The temperatures are ranging from minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit — I know it sounds scary — to minus 264 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Joanna Fryben, CEO of the Kryolife cryotherapy center in New York City.

Fryben said the treatment was developed in Europe to treat pain related to fibromyalgia, arthritis and other ailments.

“Depression, anxiety, insomnia, and the patients who are treated with who body cryotherapy — they actually also reported an alleviation of these symptoms,” she said. However, there’s been little scientific research on the subject to back up any of those claims.

Extreme cold is known to be effective for pain relief. Sports teams like the Knicks are using it to help athletes with post-game recovery, Johnson reported.

So, Johnson herself gave it a try.

“Is it normal to be this nervous? My heart is really beating,” she said before stepping into the chamber.

Her first impression: it was cold. Really, really cold.

“I feel like there’s ice cubes all down my legs,” Johnson said.

Yet Johnson said the exhilaration was undeniable.

“If you need that burst of energy, you really get it — like right away,” she said.

But pain management specialist Dr. Houman Danesh warns there are precautions that must be taken.

“For example, if you have high blood pressure, if you have poor circulation in your fingers, if you have asthma, if you have blood clots anywhere, if you’re pregnant — it’s not something you should do,” Danesh said.

But Krupp is a true believer and says the health and even beauty benefits work for her.

“It helps me stay youthful, young, it also actually almost lets you lose a little bit of weight. It just is like a great lift for you. It’s amazing,” she said.

As for the costs, a single treatment is $90, and a series of treatments is less expensive, but not covered by insurance.


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Cold truth about cryotherapy: Holy %#*&, the longest three minutes of my life

In order to show fans what big-league players go through, I’ve been hit by a 92 mph pitch, put on catcher’s gear and blocked pitches in the dirt, and had my hair cut by Eric Hosmer’s barber — basically, anything for a laugh.

So when Royals head trainer Nick Kenney asked whether I wanted to try out the team’s cryotherapy chamber, of course I said yes. I then went on the internet to find out what I had just agreed to.

Turns out you climb into something that looks like a cross between a phone booth and a time machine and expose yourself to nitrogen vapors and incredibly cold temperatures — like 180 degrees-below-zero temperatures.

That makes your body think you’re freezing to death (mainly because you are, but you’re doing so under controlled conditions), so your body says the heck with your fingers and toes — let’s save the important stuff in the body’s core. The blood then leaves your extremities and heads for your torso.

When you come out of the cryotherapy chamber, the blood returns to your extremities, but now it’s enriched because it’s got extra oxygen in it, or special sauce, or 11 herbs and spices (I’m a little fuzzy on the scientific details). And that makes you feel better in general. Personally, I think you feel better because you’re no longer freezing to death, but that’s just a theory.

In any case, apparently cryotherapy fights inflammation, reduces chronic pain and deepens your sleep.

Your head needs to stay clear of the chamber because you don’t want to breathe in the nitrogen vapors; bend down to scratch your knee, and you might pass out — which is why you hear Kenney telling me to keep my chin up.

I knew my head would stick out of the chamber — thank the internet again — but at first glance, the Royals’ cryotherapy chamber seemed too tall for me, and that’s the fault of ex-Royals pitcher Chris Young. The Royals had to buy an extra-tall cryotherapy chamber so the 6-foot-10 Young could fit inside. So if you’re not 6-foot-10, you stand on risers to keep your head clear of the freeze.

Kenney supplied me with gloves, socks and booties, and, wearing nothing else but shorts, I jumped into the chamber. The standard treatment lasts three minutes. Kenney had me rotate a quarter-turn every 15 seconds. There are two nozzles at the back of the chamber pumping out the nitrogen vapors, and the quarter-turns make sure your body gets frozen evenly — kind of like a polar rotisserie.

Ninety-five degrees below zero for three minutes while wearing nothing but shorts is a long three minutes.

I was surprised to learn that a lot of Royals players are jumping into the cryotherapy chamber twice a day: once when they arrive at the ballpark and once again before they leave, which, if nothing else, got them ready to play baseball in this spring’s weather conditions.

The next day, I told Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas what I’d done, and he started laughing. Then he asked what setting I’d been on.

Wait a minute … there are settings?

Three of them, as it turns out, and those settings regulate how much pressure is used to shoot the nitrogen vapors out of the nozzles; the more pressure, the colder it feels. When I asked Kenney what setting I’d been on, he said three — the coldest setting possible. But he also said I was lucky: I was the first one in the chamber that day, and the chamber gets colder the more it’s used. Some players have endured three minutes at 180 degrees below zero.

For the most part, the players I talked to said they’d rather do three minutes in the cryotherapy chamber than five minutes in a tub of ice water, and I can’t say I blame them. But neither one’s a walk in the park — unless you’re walking in the park in January wearing nothing but a Speedo and galoshes.

Catcher Drew Butera asked whether I felt any different after using the cryotherapy chamber, and I said I hadn’t noticed anything specific. But I did sleep like a baby that night.

A baby who was very glad it was no longer 95 below.


Article originally posted at by Lee Judge


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Subjective evaluation of the effectiveness of whole-body cryotherapy in patients with osteoarthritis.

OBJECTIVES: One of the treatments for osteoarthritis (OA) is whole-body cryotherapy (WBC). The aim of this study is to assess the effect of whole-body cryolherapy on the clinical status of patients with osteoarthritis (OA), according to their subjective feelings before and after the applicabon of a 10-day cold treatment cycle. The aim is also to assess the reduction of intensity and frequency of pain, the reduction of the painkiller medication used. and to assess the possible impact on physical activity.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: The study involved 50 people, including 30 women (60%) and 20 men (40%) Thirty-one patients had spondyloadhritis (62% of respondents), 10 had knee osteoarthritis (20%). and 9 hip osteoarthritis (18%) The overall average age was 50 I :10.9 years: the youngest patient was 29 years old and the oldest 73 years old. The average age of the women was 6 years higher. The study used a questionnaire completed by patients and consisted of three basic parts. The modified Laitinen pain questionnaire contained questions concerning the intensity and frequency of pain, frequency of painkiller use and the degree of limited mobility. The visual analogue scale (VAS) was used in order to subjectively evaluate the therapy after applying the ten-day treatment cycle

RESULTS: According to the subjective assessment of respondents after the whole-body cryotherapy treatments. a significant improvement occurred in 39 patients (78%). an improvement in 9 patients (18%). and no improvement was only declared by 2 patients (4%)

CONCLUSIONS: Whole-body cryotherapy resulted in a reduction in the frequency and degree of pain perception in patients with osteoarthritis. WBC reduced the number of analgesic medications in these patients. II improved the range of physical activity and had a positive fled on the well-being of patients.


Muscular disorders associated with ankylosing spondylitis and their correction with the help of whole body cryotherapy

AIM: The objective of the present study was to evaluate the possibilities for the correction of muscular disorders associated with ankylosing spondylitis and their correction with the help of whole body cryotherapy.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: The study included 55 patients randomly allocated to two groups Group I was comprised of the patients treated with the use of the common mineral baths. physiotherapy, therapeutic physical exercises, spinal massage. and whole body air­cryotherapy Group 2 contained the patients who were treated in a similar way with the exception of whole body cryotherapy they served as controls. Muscular disorders were diagnosed by means of functional muscular testing.

RESULTS: The study has demonstrated the high prevalence of muscular disorders in the patients suffering from ankylosing spondylitis. Moreover it revealed the profile of such disorders associated with ankylosing spondylitis and showed significant correlation between the results of functional muscular testing BASMI and BASFI indices as well as characteristics of chest excursions (p<0 01) The analysis of the results of the treatment gave evidence of the higher effectiveness of the combined treatment including whole body cryotherapy in comparison with the alternative therapeutic modalities employed in the present study. This therapeutic modality ensured the statistically more pronounced improvement of functional muscular testing parameters p<0.05) muscle strength and extensibility. as well as certain other clinical and functional characteristics. The groups of muscles most susceptible to cryogenic therapy have been identified.

CONCLUSION: The data obtained in the present study shed light on some specific features of the action of whole body cryotherapy accounting for its corrective influence on the muscular disorders in the patients presenting with ankylosing spondylitis It is concluded that the proposed approach can be recommended for the introduction in the combined therapeutic and rehabilitative treatment of muscular disorders associated with ankylosing spondylitis


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Whole-body cryotherapy’s enhancement of acute recovery of running performance in well-trained athletes

PURPOSE: To examine the effects of a whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) protocol (3 min at -110°C) on acute recovery and key variables of endurance performance during high-intensity intermittent exercise in a thermoneutral environment.

METHODS: Eleven endurance athletes were tested twice in a randomized crossover design in which 5×5 min of high-intensity running (HIR) were followed by 1 h of passive rest at -22°C, including either 3 min of whole-body exposure to -110`C (WBC) or a placebo intervention of 3 min walking (P60). A ramp-test protocol was performed before HIR (R1) and after the 1-h recovery period (R2). Time to exhaustion (trim) was measured along with alterations in oxygen content of the vastus lateralis (TSI), oxygen consumption (V02), capillary blood lactate, heart rate (HR), and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) during submaximal and maximal running.

RESULTS: The difference in tlim between R1 and R2 was lower in WBC than in P80 (P<.05. effect size d=1.13). During R2. TSI was higher in WBC during submaximal and maximal running (P<.01. d=0.68-1.01). In addition. V02. HR. and RPE were lower at submaximal level of R2 after WBC than in PBO (P=.04 to <.01. d=0.23-0.83).

CONCLUSION: WBC improves acute recovery during high-intensity intermittent exercise in thermoneutral conditions. The improvements might be induced by enhanced oxygenation of the working muscles, as well as a reduction in cardiovascular strain and increased work economy at submaximal intensities.


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Effect of cryotherapy on the lumbar spine in elderly men with back pain

Whole-body cryotherapy (ivi1I3C) is a procedure which is more and more often successfully applied in medicine. Used in physiotherapy programs improves the efficiency of physiotherapeutic exercises applied in different aliments The aim of the research was to determine the influence of WBC treatment on the improvement of spine activity in elderly men The evaluation was based on subjects suffering from chronic lower back pain. The research was conducted on 96 male in the age of 65-75 years suffering from chronic pain in the lumbar spine, lasting >3 months. All the subjects performed physical exercises at a gym. Half of the examined patients performed only physical exercises while the second half of the group participated in WBC before performing the same exercises. The research evaluated the mobility of lumbar spine at all movement planes and examined the values of active potentials of erector spinae in the lumbar pad of the spine. The group of men who participated in WBC showed significantly lower values of active potentials of erector spinae muscles in the lumbar part of the spine and a significant increase in the range of the lumbar spine mobility. in comparison to the group which did not use WBC


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You can actually Improve Energy with Cryotherapy

1. Environmental Fluctuations

The body’s response to the extreme cold felt during a whole body Cryotherapy session is to constrict muscles and increase blood flow and what follows is a chain reaction of effects that ensure you Improve Sleep with Cryotherapy.

2. Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine gives you a similar sensation to a cup of coffee, it’s synonyms with alertness, goal seeking behavior, and energy levels.

Your Body secrets 3-5 times the normal amount of Norepinephrine while in the Cryochamber..

Low amounts are also associated with depression, Norepinephrine is a natural “Feel Good” Hormone

3. Brown Fat

10-20 Sessions can increase the amount of mitochondria in your body as much as 38%.

This Mitochondria Dense fat is known as “Brown Fat” and gets it’s name because Mitochondria are dense in iron, giving them a brown color.

Mitochondria is known as the Powerhouse of the Cell, and it’s aptly named. The Mitochondria dense Brown Fat is easily turned into energy in emergency situations, or temperature shifts, and may increase resting caloric burn.

This increase in Mitochondria is a natural adaption from your body to the extreme temperatures – people in colder parts of the world (especially those who work outside) have larger amounts of Brown Fat.


How can you Improve Sleep With Cryotherapy?


A Single Session is all it takes to improve your sleep with Cryotherapy. After  20 Cryotherapy Sessions your sleep will be greatly improved for the next 3 months Post-Cryotherapy, So even if you have to stop using Cryotherapy for a while (an active lifestyle is great!), you will still be able to reap these benefits of Cryotherapy. That is, for at least 3 months before you need to start doing your sessions again. Still not bad for a treatment that lasts only three minutes. Think of all of the things you could do with ninety days of good sleep. If your doing everything right;

  • Not drinking coffee after 5pm
  • Turning off all devices with screens while trying to sleep
  • Not eating after six pm
  • Giving yourself enough time

And you’re still not sleeping, you could benefit greatly from cryotherapy. Hey, it can be hard to relax and get the much needed zzz’s you deserve when you have important meetings or life events coming up,  have many stresses in your life, or if you hear your kids wonderful voices screaming in your head at night. Here’s how it works.

Your body responds to the extreme cold felt during a whole body cryotherapy session in many different ways. It constricts muscles and increases blood flow to start with. What happens next is a large chain reaction of differing effects throughout the body.

One of those effects is the release of feel good endorphins in the brain and an increase in production of norepinephrine as well. The endorphins, once in your bloodstream, will act as an analgesic which will decrease any sensations of pain you might have been experiencing while simultaneously acting as a mild sedative. Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that affects your sleep-wake cycle and has dramatic effects on energy, focus, mood, and sleep patterns. That means that these changes in your body caused by cryotherapy will directly affect how well you sleep!

Other effects include a boost to your immune system and a reduction of pain and inflammation. When your immunity is heightened, it is easier to combat and resist catching colds, disease and other illnesses that might keep you up at night as a side effect from the sickness itself or from the pain/problems you have to manage from the illness. Similarly, less pain and inflammation will prevent trouble you have when falling asleep and also it helps against frequently waking up/ tossing and turning throughout the night. These changes in your body indirectly affect how well you sleep!

Whether your pain is preventing you from getting enough sleep at night or if you suffer from a stressful schedule, you may very well be able to Better your Sleep with Cryotherapy

Additionally your body is able to produce more energy during the day through a more efficient and higher functioning metabolism as well as from the increasing amount of Mitochondria Dense “Brown Fat” your body stores.


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Effects of 15 consecutive cryotherapy sessions on the clinical output of fibromyalgic patients.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic widespread pain disorder in which the neurogenic origin of the pain, featured by allodynia and hyperalgesia results from an imbalance in the levels of neurotransmitters and consequently of the peripheral pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators Whole body cryotherapy is a peculiar physical therapy known to relieve pain and inflammatory symptoms characteristics of rheumatic diseases through the regulation of the cytokine expression. The aim of this study was to qualitatively evaluate the effects of cryotherapy on the clinical output of fibromyalgic patients .A total of 100 fibromyalgic patients (age range 17-70 years) were observed 50 subjects were addressed to

Cryotherapy, while the second group (n = 50) did not underwent to the cryotherapic treatment. All subjects kept the prescribed pharmacological therapy during the study (analgesic and antioxidants). The referred health status pre- and post-observation was evaluated with the following scales Visual Analogue Scale. Short Form-36 Global Health Status and Fatigue Severity Scale. Fibromyalgic patients treated with cryotherapy reported a more pronounced improvement of the quality of life. in comparison with the non-cryo treated fibromyalgic subjects. as indicated by the scores of the qualitative indexes and sub-indexes that are widely recognized tools to assess the overall health status and the effect of the treatments We speculate that this improvement is due to the known direct effect of cryotherapy on the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators having a recognized role in the modulation of pain


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Effects of whole-body cryotherapy in the management of adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder.

OBJECTIVE: To compare 2 different treatment approaches, physical therapy modalities, and joint mobilization versus whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) combined with physical therapy modalities and joint mobilization, for symptoms of adhesive capsulitis (AC) of the shoulder.

DESIGN: A randomized trial.

SETTING: Hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: Patients with AC of the shoulder (N=30).

INTERVENTION: Patients were randomly assigned to 2 groups. The WBC group received physical therapy modalities, passive joint mobilization of the shoulder, and WBC, whereas the non-WBC group received only physical therapy modalities and passive joint mobilization of the shoulder.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Visual analog scale (VAS), active range of motion (ROM) of flexion, abduction, internal and external rotation of the shoulder, and the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Standardized Shoulder Assessment Form (ASES) were measured before and after the intervention.

RESULTS: A statistically significant difference between groups was found for the VAS, active ROM of flexion, abduction, internal rotation, and external rotation, and the ASES with greater improvements in the WBC group (Ps<.01). Overall, both groups showed a significant improvement in all outcome measures and ROM measures from pre to post at a level of P<.01.

CONCLUSIONS: There is significant improvement with the addition of WBC to treatment interventions in this sample of patients.


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