Cryotherapy in rheumatic diseases

Rheumatic diseases are related to a degenerative process (osteoarthritis) or to chronic inflammation (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis and spondylarthropathies) and can cause severe functional impairments. Some of the rheumatic diseases are extremely common in the general population. In addition to the drugs (analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents) and rehabilitative techniques often recommended for rheumatic diseases, cryotherapy is widely used both by healthcare professionals and by patients at home. Cryotherapy is an easy-to-use nonpharmacological method for obtaining pain relief.

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While this may be the first you are hearing of cryotherapy, it was actually invented in Japan in the late 1970s as a remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. In recent years, it has become more and more popular in the States, and a certain amount of controversy has come along with it.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, it is a “trend that lacks evidence, poses risks”. But ask one of the professional athletes who use cryotherapy for recovery or injury rehabilitation and they will tell you it has been life changing. A Cryofacial patient who has seen her rosacea disappear with just a few treatments will certainly tell you a different story, too.

After hearing people rave about speedy post-surgery recovery times (or chemical peel, as it may be), and knowing that the eternally youthful Demi Moore swears by it, obviously, I had to go and see what it was all about.

What is cryotherapy?

It is defined as a “systematic anti-inflammatory treatment involving skin exposure to ultra-low temperatures (-190° to -256°F) for a brief, controlled time (one to three minutes).” In regular people terms, that means you stand in a futuristic-looking chamber while liquid nitrogen is blown on your body for up to three minutes. They also offer localized treatments. So say, you have tennis elbow, they can isolate and only treat that part of your body (no chamber required).

But it doesn’t stop there — it is used to treat a plethora of ailments and beauty concerns. Everything from autoimmune disorders and fibromyalgia to cellulite, aging skin, depression and insomnia. Because I didn’t try the whole-body treatment, I can’t speak to any of those claims, however, the number of maladies that people go in for weekly — and sometimes daily — is jaw-dropping.

Joseph Godin and his wife are the owners of San Diego Cryotherapy and they see about 40 patients a day — sometimes up to 85. That kind of traffic is not something to be ignored. I chose San Diego Cryotherapy because they are the only provider in San Diego whose employees were trained and certified by Dr. Jonas Kuehne of Cryohealthcare in L.A. (he is the one who brought cryotherapy to the U.S.).

“I woke up looking refreshed… Like I had both been on vacation in the south of France and gotten a La Mer facial overnight”


Cryofacial: The Facts

The Cryofacial involves the technician using a vacuum-like apparatus to blow pressurized liquid nitrogen vapors on the face, neck and head to stimulate collagen and shrink pore size.

Other reported benefits include:

  • Erases fine lines, age spots and wrinkles
  • Treats eczema, psoriasis, acne and other skin disorders
  • Tightens skin and reduces pore size
  • Improves circulation


The Treatment

I was taken into a private room and laid down on a treatment bed exactly as you would for a regular facial, except this time there were no locker rooms, no robes and no makeup removal. I couldn’t help but think that this would be the perfect lunchtime pick-me-up. Because I was not intending on having multiple treatments, I was given a 15-minute session to maximize the effects.

The first pass of cold air literally took my breath away, and scared me a little if I am being honest. It felt like my throat was closing up, but after convincing myself to relax, the cold air actually felt fine. Well, except that I could feel my sinuses weirdly contracting with each pass. I also found it quite difficult to speak during the Cryofacial, but that was the extent of discomfort — if you can even call it that.

Fifteen minutes later, we finished and a quick mirror check confirmed that my skin was glowing. I was happy with that. I’m not going to lie — I expected miracles, but thus far, there were none to report. That evening, I examined myself in the mirror waiting for my 23-year-old self to reappear, but nada. Oh well, I thought. I met some really nice people and learned a lot about cryotherapy, so nothing was really lost.

The Miracle

Three days later, I woke up looking refreshed… like I had both been on vacation in the south of France and gotten a La Mer facial overnight. My pores were smaller and the expression lines on my forehead were noticeably less defined. But the most exciting part was that when I washed my hair in the shower — NONE FELL OUT.

Ask my husband and he will tell you I shed like a dog (a dog that sheds a lot). Normally, long strands of blonde hair are wrapped around the laundry, hanging from the dog’s mouth, in the refrigerator… somehow they fly off of my head and land on stranger’s shirts when I first meet them. For the first time since I had the facial, I thought, I need to go back.

When I was researching cryotherapy, I had read about the thickening effect it has on hair, and like a cold rinse in the shower, it closes the cuticle and leaves the hair very shiny and healthy-looking. But no one had mentioned this! For years, the rate of hair loss has been increasing, probably due to age and stress, and so this was practically a miracle. I was home alone at the time and considered knocking on the neighbor’s door and telling them how excited I was (don’t worry, I didn’t).


The Verdict

Would I have another Cryofacial? The long and short of it is, yes. Would I go in once a week and have liquid nitrogen blown on my hair? 100% yes. Would I recommend that you give it a try? Absolutely.


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Is Whole Body Cryotherapy beneficial for battling cancer

Cryotherapy is an all-natural alternative therapy accessible to everyone, not just athletes, but for everyone who is dealing with inflammation, depression, anxiety, aches and pains, etc. The entire treatment is 3 minutes and is more beneficial than ice baths, massages, and other forms of therapy.

Subjecting your body to refrigerator-like conditions for a short time jolts your immune system. This jolt sends messages to each of your organs and then promotes healing anything wrong. Your body goes into survival mode when it rushes all the blood to your core. During this process, your blood picks up extra enzymes and nutrients normally held in storage-mode by your body.

The goal is for the nitrogen to cool down your body and reduce any inflammation or pain. Your blood becomes enriched with oxygen, enzymes, and much needed nutrients. Healthy, well-oxygenated blood improves your overall health, which is why this treatment is helpful for anyone battling a major disease like cancer.

Successive treatments lead to an increase in the hemoglobin counts, and your blood becomes enriched in quality. The strong, rich, blood flow helps eliminate many health problems. Extreme cold helps your body eliminate dead cells through the lymph system. Why is this important? Because otherwise the dead cells make your body systems sluggish.

Over the years several alternative cancer doctors emphasize the importance of moving the lymph, the fluid produced by a body system that collects waste and dead pathogens. Exercise, massage or by stepping up blood circulation through alternate extremes of hot and cold are some of the ways this can be done.

Cryotherapy is useful in the fight against cancer because it helps you:

  • Detoxify
  • Repair damaged tissues
  • Improve immune function
  • Reduce markers of the inflammatory response
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Diminish swelling
  • Boost circulation

Cryosaunas have been used in Japan and Europe for many years, but have only recently started surfacing in America. Many facilities recommend 3-5 treatments separated by no more than two or three days to start seeing consistent results.


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Effect of whole body cryotherapy interventions on health-related quality of life in fibromyalgia patients:

Fibromyalgia is characterized by persistent diffuse pain resulting from a central nervous system dysfunction due to neurochemical imbalances at the level of the brain.1–3 Associated symptoms include sleep disorders and severe fatigue, stiffness, digestive problems, urinary disorders, hypotension, headaches, depression, anxiety, and cognitive
impairments.4 As a result, it is a physically and emotionally taxing disorder that has potentially devastating effects on patients’ quality of life, limiting their daily life, as well as their social, professional and recreational activities.

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Effects of whole-body cryotherapy durationon thermal and cardio-vascular response

Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) is the exposure of minimally dressed participants to very cold air,either in a specially designed chamber(cryo-chamber) or cabin(cryo-cabin),for a short period of
time. The exposure to cold air usually lasts up to three minutes. Beneficial effects of WBC have been observed in recovery after training, pathology of joints, mental state and quality of life
and in the rehabilitation of patients with rheumatoid diseases.

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Why a Cryotherapy Facial Is the Best Way to Brighter, Tighter Skin

“How’s the ice facial?” my husband Will texted me the other day. He meant to write “Cryo Facial,” the next big trend in anti-aging that, via blasts of cold vapor and light therapy, is meant to boost cell rejuvenation and collagen as well as plump the face, but I didn’t bother to correct him. I was still flying high from my 45 minutes with medical aesthetician Elena Wawrzynski, which included a microdermabrasion session, LED light therapy, and yes, freezing, ice-cold air—like negative 225 degrees Fahrenheit freezing—blown across my forehead, cheeks, neck, and chin. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like semantics ruin my chill. But, to answer his question, let’s take it back to earlier that day.

Inside the New York Dermatology Group’s new integral health and wellness wingin the Flatiron district of Manhattan, I am in a bright-white, podlike treatment room where there isn’t a speckle of dust on the counter; it’s as squeaky-clean and luxurious as can be. I lie back on a doctor’s chair—the same kind installed throughout the space by top dermatologist David Colbert, M.D., who is primarily known by his celebrity clients for having a sensei-like skill with lasers and face-changing injectables—and brace myself for what’s to come: cold.

The thing is, I’ve been burned before by cryotherapy, the stand-up, full-body “wellness” chambers that require you to strip and stand in ungodly cold temperatures produced by liquid nitrogen for roughly three minutes at a time. While it no doubt has given me a serious energy boost, I can’t seem to shake the suspicion that one particular session last year came close to giving me frostbite—think: numbness and tingling around the tips of my toes.

And while the FDA recently approved targeted cold therapy carried out by physicians for nerve damage in the shoulders, hips, and knees, the full-body “cryo chambers” that have become a wellness phenomenon have yet to receive its stamp of validation. Still, believers like Colbert, and a wave of trained medical aestheticians and facialists, are singing its praises, bringing the treatment into the arena of high-tech skin care.

Make no mistake: Cryotherapy is serious business and can cause more harm than good if placed in the wrong hands. But here, in Dr. Colbert’s office of world-class physicians, including sweet Elena, who has just placed a heated towel over my body and around the back of my neck and ears, I’m feeling ready for anything that comes my way. Even more convincing? Robin Wright, a client of Colbert’s, is supposedly a big fan of the cold facial service, too—and if she can make 52 years look like 25, I’m here for it.

Following a quick cleanse and lymphatic drainage, Elena performs microdermabrasion, which involves the use of crystals to deeply exfoliate and brighten the face. “Are you ready?” she asks. I nod my head yes, careful to not loosen my eye protectors. At first, it is totally fine—a cold breeze, not unlike the one I endured all winter long in Rockaway Beach, New York, where I live. But then, the chill gets more intense, and I swear I start to feel tiny ice flakes fall from the device swirling overhead. Many minutes pass until I remember to keep breathing. But I brave the cold, like a true New Yorker, and soon enough, it’s over. Elena removes my shades and tells me I can open my eyes—which, well, is kind of difficult to do. The freezing cold temperature penetrated my pores so deeply, it left me with this blanket of cold cushioning my eye sockets. It feels weird, a bit extraterrestrial, but kind of great, too—like I just woke up from a deep sleep in some kind of faraway glacial land. I touch my face and sure enough, everything feels tighter.

Before I can catch a glimpse of the results in the mirror, a heat lamp–looking device is secured around my face and neck—delivering red LED light therapy, which helps increase radiance and calm redness. Now baking, I daydream of summer vacation in Ely, Minnesota, where I once spent hours flip-flopping between freezing cold lake water and a woodburning sauna. The constant change in temperatures became addictive—not just because of the thrill of it all, but because of how great my friends and I felt afterwards. Rejuvenated and calm, similar to a first sip of ice-cold beer after a long, hot run.

And though in that spotless room in the city there was absolutely no physical exertion involved, my face appears brighter, the lines around the corners of my eyes seem smoother, and my lips and cheeks look more pillowy than ever before, due to all the blood rushing to them. As for that blemish? It’s still there, but much fainter—only a day or two away from disappearing altogether. While gathering my belongings, I feel an espresso-like jolt of energy. The following weekend, the results just seem to get better, and at a family wedding, my cousin won’t stop telling me how great I look. On that day, in the summer heat, I find myself longing to feel the big chill again—and soon.


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Cooling Down: The Cryo Facial Unmasked

Cryotherapy has gained popularity in the recent years with spa treatments exposing clients to subzero temperatures to help relieve pain and improve their health. This wellness treatment has recently undergone another adaptation with the cryotherapy facial treatment.

Cryo Facial Facts

The Cryo Facial is a cryogenic treatment that is performed by what is considered a “cryo probe,” which beams vaporized liquid nitrogen across the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin.1 Different from the cryotherapy chambers that can be used for pain relief, the facial  targets helping the face look younger.

The treatment helps the skin to feel tighter, and the pressurized liquid nitrogen helps stimulate collagen production while also filling in fine lines and wrinkles and decreasing pores.

The facial will typically include a scalp and neck nitrogen massage as well, and it is often recommended to do this facial in a series of treatments.2 Some spas have even started offering Cryo Facial membership packages.

The Benefits of Freezing Your Face

Some of the many benefits of receiving this treatment deal with stimulating collagen production through the increase in microcir­culation. This then helps to detox and rejuvenate the skin.1

Furthering the treatment’s anti-aging benefits, cryo facials are said to restore firmness to the skin and will even cause the skin to feel tighter right after the treatment. In rejuvenating the skin, the cryo facial also restores radiance, soothes inflammation and improves skin texture and tone.1

This treatment can even go as far as to help clients who are suffering from more severe skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.


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What Happened When I Tried A Chilly Cryotherapy Facial

When it comes to facials, and skin care in general, I’m not usually one to experiment. Aside from a few spa treatments I’ve experienced over the years, the closest I get to a facial most days is looking in the mirror and constantly touching my skin. (I know, I’m working on it.) So when mbg’s beauty editor asked me to try a cryotherapy facial, I was both intrigued and hesitant.

Assuming you don’t know much about cryotherapy facials, it’s safe to say I knew less.

I thought I was going to freeze my ass off because what I do know about cryotherapy is that it’s quite cold. Would a facial be as cold as those cryotherapy sessions you see intense fitness people doing on Instagram?

To give a little context: I have moderate skin—not too dry or oily—but I have always been acne-prone. One too many cocktails or processed snacks, and my skin is quick to react. Too many hours between my workout and my shower, and I can count on little bumps showing up that night. Not to mention I break out at the first sight of harsh products (fragrances, funky chemicals, etc.). I actually had a blemish on my chin going into this facial. Perfect timing, right? I was broken out, and I was willing.

How does “cryotherapy” play into a facial, exactly?

Cryotherapy, or the practice of using cold temperatures to improve our health in various ways, has been around for a long time but has made a resurgence in the last few years as the wellness world continues to look for the best, most efficient way to recover from workouts, help heal injuries, look younger, and lose weight. A typical cryotherapy session happens inside a tall, steel chamber. You step inside for two to three minutes—mostly naked—sometimes at temperatures as low as -200 degrees Fahrenheit. To me, that sounds beyond daunting; I’m pretty certain I’ll never step into one of those metallic vessels. But the facial seemed different. How cold could a facial get, really? I had nothing to lose, so I booked an appointment.

Cryotherapy facials claim to stimulate collagen, minimize the appearance of your pores, and give an overall look of cleaner, plumper, and younger skin. I was ready.

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The Effects of Cryotherapy on Proprioception System

The term “proprioception” was developed in 1906 by Sherrington, who first used the hypotheses of the “proprioceptive field,” the “proprioceptive reflex,” and the “proprioceptive system.” Proprioception is defined as the perception of joint position and movement as well as “the afferent information arising from internal peripheral areas of the body (located predominantly in the muscles, tendons, joint capsules and ligaments) that contribute to postural control (postural equilibrium), joint stability (segmental posture), and several
conscious sensations (muscle sense)”.

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Cryotherapy Facial – What Is It, Benefits, And How It Works?

I’m sure you have heard of botox. But, have you ever heard of something called ‘frotox’? It’s the nickname that the beauty industry has coined for cryotherapy facial. Cryotherapy facial is a treatment in which your skin is exposed to subzero temperatures. It is the hottest (pun intended!) skin care treatment right now that celebs are obsessed with. Scroll down to learn more about it.

Cryotherapy means ‘cold therapy.’ It is a treatment in which your body or a body part (such as your face) is exposed to subzero temperatures for a few minutes.

This technique was first developed in Japan in 1978. The Japanese rheumatologist, Dr. Toshima Yamaguchi, is credited with developing this technique. He primarily used this technique to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Soon, the benefits of cryotherapy moved beyond arthritis. It proved beneficial for treating inflammation, psoriasis, and tissue pain and revitalizing the skin.

Cryotherapy can be done on just one particular area of your body or your entire body. When it is done on the face, it is called ‘cryotherapy facial,’ and when it is done on your body, it is called ‘whole-body cryotherapy.’ The way it is administered depends on the specific area of the body you are addressing.

In whole-body cryotherapy, your body is enclosed in a small chamber. You need to stand inside a chamber that surrounds only your body, leaving an opening for your head. Once your body is inside the chamber, its temperature is dropped to anywhere between -200° and -300° Fahrenheit. The aesthetician blows a cold stream of air that is made of vaporized liquid nitrogen. Your body is exposed to that temperature for just a few minutes

When exposed to freezing temperature, your body thinks that it’s freezing. This triggers the natural healing mechanism of your body. It accumulates blood in the core of your body to keep it warm. This expands your capillaries, and the white blood cells start working at a faster pace to protect you. During those minutes, your brain also releases hormones, such as adrenaline and endorphins, to stimulate your organs. This reaction facilitates cell rejuvenation, boosts your immune function, and promotes self-healing.

Cryotherapy facial does not involve such a chamber. Here is what you can expect during a session.

How Cryotherapy Facial Works: What To Expect During A Session

Different doctors might follow slightly different processes for cryotherapy, but overall, the approach remains the same.

  • Before the treatment, your face is thoroughly cleansed and massaged. This helps in lymphatic drainage and elimination of toxins and tension from your facial muscles.
  • Your face might be exposed to steam. If you have any breakouts, they will be extracted with a quick session of microdermabrasion.
  • In some places, your face may be exposed to different light frequencies to aid repair, kill bacteria, and boost collagen production. This helps in improving your skin’s health.

Now, the cryotherapy session begins.

  • Your eyes are covered with protective goggles.
  • A cold blast of liquid nitrogen is pumped all over your face using a tube attached to the cryotherapy machine. The nozzle of the tube has lasers that measure the temperature of your skin continuously.
  • The tube is continuously moved all over your face. This is to ensure that no particular area of your face gets too cold.

A cryotherapy facial session lasts for 2-3 minutes. Once the process is over, your safety goggles are removed. In many places, a cryotherapy session is followed by other spa facial treatments. You may receive red LED light therapy (to increase skin radiance), a facial massage, and a hydrating mask to boost your skin’s health. Immediately after the procedure, your skin will feel tighter and smoother.

Whether you are opting for just a facial or a full-body session, cryotherapy offers multiple benefits. Let’s explore them in the next section.

Benefits Of Cryotherapy Facial For Skin

1. It Helps Improve Atopic Dermatitis Symptoms

A 2008 study involving 18 adults with mild to moderate levels of atopic dermatitis examined the efficacy of cryotherapy in reducing AD symptoms. Most of the participants experienced improvement in their condition. However, three of them complained of mild acral (areas of limbs, ear, and nose) frostbite. Overall, the subjects regarded the process as pleasant and were willing to follow the course of treatment

A study done on mice found that exposing the sebaceous glands to a temperature of -8° Celsius reduced the number of sebocytes (sebum-producing cells), thus preventing excessive sebum production

3. It Improves Blood Circulation

When you undergo cryotherapy facial, the intense cold air makes your blood vessels contract and then expand. This leads to increased blood flow to your skin and makes it look healthy and radiant.

4. It Tightens Your Skin Pores

The cold temperature of cryotherapy tightens your skin’s pores. This prevents the accumulation of dirt and bacteria in your pores.


Other Benefits Of Cryotherapy

1. It Eases Pain

Cryotherapy is mainly used by athletes to treat muscle spasms and injuries. When your body is exposed to cold, it numbs the irritated nerve and helps in easing acute injuries and swelling. The cold also helps minimize inflammation, thus treating bruises, strains, and sprains

2. It Eases Migraine Symptoms

A study found that cold therapy could ease migraine symptoms effectively. The study involved 101 patients (of which only 55 participants were included in the data analysis) with a migraine headache targeting their carotid arteries at the neck. The recordings were measured at various time intervals, such as during the onset of pain, after 15 minutes, after 30 minutes, and after 1 hour. And 77% of the participants said that the cold therapy helped in easing the pain