WHAT IS CRYOTHERAPY?
Although many think of cryotherapy as a full body treatment, the term simply refers to any use of extreme cold on the body. An ice pack on the leg can be a form of cryotherapy. While trendy now, cryotherapy has been around for centuries. Past cryotherapy was usually in the form of a cold bath in a frozen river or something similar. Recent technology has given birth to cold air baths (cryotherapy chambers) and what is now known as Whole-Body Cryotherapy (WBC): refers to the use of a full body ice bath or cold air exposure (cryotherapy chamber).
Essentially, cryotherapy is similar to sauna therapy or even exercise in that it acts as a stressor on the body (although cryo and sauna are much more powerful stressors than standard exercise). Putting the body under a regulated amount of stress produces a cascade of powerful benefits (check out our article on sauna use!). Here are the top 7 benefits of cryotherapy!
BENEFITS OF CRYOTHERAPY
1. CRYOTHERAPY…PROVIDES PAIN RELIEF
Just as applying an ice pack to a targeted area can reduce pain, full body cryotherapy can help reduce pain throughout the entire body. This is particularly beneficial for those with chronic pain diseases like arthritis, MS, etc. A study looking at the benefits of cryotherapy on arthritis patients found that their pain was significantly reduced after a 2.5 minute session and lasted for 90 minutes. Doctors and Physical Therapists have found this particularly useful in allowing for more aggressive physiotherapy or occupational therapy. Studies have also found that cryotherapy targeted on the neck can reduce the intensity of migraines!
2. CRYOTHERAPY…REDUCES INFLAMMATION
Inflammation can occur after an acute injury or as chronic inflammation from a poor diet and lifestyle. Chronic inflammation has been linked to multiple illnesses including: diabetes, dementia, arthritis, depression, cancer, etc. Cold exposure can both reduce inflammation throughout the body as well as increase production of important immune supporting cells like NK (help fight viruses, bacteria and cancer cells).
3. CRYOTHERAPY…SPEEDS UP WOUND HEALING & MUSCLE RECOVERY
The powerful anti-inflammatory effects of cryotherapy allow for fresh blood cells to be delivered to injuries and external wounds. This fresh delivery of blood flushes out toxins and surrounds the area with fresh, clean blood speeding up the wound recovery process. The same is true for muscle recovery. Cryotherapy after a workout or intense exercise has been shown to reduce soreness and recovery time. Many well known athletes, like Kobe Bryant, have shared their religious use of cryotherapy in their daily lives.
4. CRYOTHERAPY…REDUCES SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
In 2008, a small study looked at the impact of cryotherapy on participants who suffered from severe anxiety and/or depression. The study found that after 3 weeks of daily treatments, one third of the patients reported a more than 50% reduction in symptoms! Most researchers attribute these amazing effects to the increased production of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and endorphins.
5. CRYOTHERAPY…INCREASES ENERGY & METABOLISM
The increased release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, endorphins along with other neuro-peptides creates a noticeable difference in energy immediately after treatment. While more studies are needed, many scientists and medical practitioners argue that cryotherapy can also increase metabolism.
As Dr. Soyona Rafatjah states, “Cold exposure and norepinephrine have also been linked to increased production of brown fat in humans (5). Brown fat is called such due to the increased number of mitochondria that these fat cells contain that give it a brownish color. Mitochondria are the energy-producing units within our cells, and therefore having more of them will not only allow you to produce more energy but also use more energy, therefore creating a faster metabolism.
This increase in metabolism is the mechanism by which many cryo proponents tout to be at play in its fat-burning or slimming effects. One can also extrapolate that one 3 minute cryo-session at temperatures below -250 deg F could cause one to burn 500-800 calories.”
6. CRYOTHERAPY…IMPROVES DERMATITIS, ECZEMA & OTHER ATOPIC SKIN CONDITIONS
In 2008 a study looked at the benefits of cryotherapy on eczema patients. The participants were asked to stop use of their eczema creams and antihistamines during the entire 4 week study. Patients received three cryotherapy treatments per week. Most of the participants reported improvement in their eczema symptoms. Although researchers cannot attest to why, they found that the cryotherapy was more effective in the female participants vs. the males.
A facial ending in cryotherapy aides in tightening skin, reducing inflammation, reducing redness (after treatment is complete) and reducing pore size!
7. CRYOTHERAPY…SUPPORTS BRAIN HEALTH
Cryotherapy has been shown to improve brain health in a number of ways. Cold exposure increases the production of cold shock proteins. More specifically, shock protein RBM3, which protects inter-neuron connections therefore protecting against damage that can lead to memory loss or more serious diseases like Alzheimers.
Multiple studies have found that the increased proliferation of RBM3 from cold exposure can actually reduce brain damage and improve dysfunction both short and long term.
Although further studies are needed, researchers also speculate that the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative benefits of cryotherapy can play a significant role in preventing Dementia and Alzheimers as well as improving symptoms of current Dementia and Alzheimers patients.