Cryotherapy is another word for “cold therapy” and what it is used for is to expose your body to extremely cold temperatures of between -100 degrees Celsius to -140 degree Celsius for several minutes. It was developed in 1978 in Japan by Toshiro Yamauchi.
There is cryotherapy for parts of your body and there is also full-body cryotherapy. There are several health benefits associated with full-body cryotherapy when used for several minutes. Individuals normally cover their hands, feet and head and go into an enclosed chamber. There they will stay for two to four minutes in ultra-low temperature. I have seen how professional football clubs, like Tottenham, use it for their players to help with the recovery after a heavy game or training session. Cryotherapy USA is a great equipment supplier to professional athletes.
It is not only useful for athletes but for everyone, let’s look at some of the health benefits.
1. Reduces arthritic pain
Whole-body cryotherapy can significantly reduce arthritic pain according to this peer-reviewed study. The benefits are multiple, a decrease in inflation, a slowdown of the production of joint fluid and the release of endorphins to decrease the transmission of pain signals.
2. Aids muscle recovery
After leaving the chamber the blood veins will open to thee to four times the normal size, thereby increasing the blood supply and bringing more oxygen to the muscles and aid the recovery process. Athletes used to take icebaths in the past to have the same effect, but in the cryotherapy chamber, this can be done more quickly.
3. Treats atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions
Cryotherapy improves the antioxidant levels in the blood and can also reduce inflammation, therefore both local and whole-body cryotherapy can help to treat atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a skin disease that is inflammatory, the symptoms are itchy and dry skin.
4. Helps treat anxiety and depression
The extreme low temperatures associated with whole-body cryotherapy can lead to the release of adrenaline, endorphins and noradrenaline. These hormonal responses can have an uplifting effect for those that experience disorders like depression and anxiety.
The ultra-cold temperatures in whole-body cryotherapy can cause physiological hormonal responses. This includes the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and endorphins. This can have a positive effect on those experiencing mood disorders like anxiety and depression. This study found out that it is an effective short term treatment for both.
5. Can reduce migraine
Migraines can be treated by localized cryotherapy that numbs the nerves in the neck area. This is done by applying a neck wrap that has frozen ice packs to the carotid arteries in the neck. The carotid arteries are close to the skin and the cryotherapy cools the blood passing through thereby reducing the migraine pain.
6. Treats low-risk tumours
Low-risk tumours for certain cancer types, including prostate cancer can be treated with cryosurgery. This is localized cryotherapy that freezes the cancer cells and surrounds them with ice crystals.
7. Numbs nerve irritation
Athletes have used cryotherapy for years to treat injuries. It aids the recovery but it also numbs the pain. It is the same feeling you have when you walk outside in the ice-cold with no gloves, eventually, your hands feel numb. Cold can numb the irritated nerves. This is more a speciality of doctors who can treat the affected area by inserting a small cold probe in the tissue. This type of treatment, different from whole body cryotherapy can help pinched nerves, acute injuries and chronic pain.
Risks and side effects
The temporary side effects that are most common with cryotherapy are tingling, numbness, irritation and redness of the skin. If you still have these side effects after 24 hours it is best to consult a doctor.
Never use whole-body cryotherapy for more than four minutes, which is the longest time you should use it. If you use icepacks at home make sure to wrap them in towels to avoid direct contact of the ice with your skin and apply for no more than 20 minutes. The same is for ice baths, never longer than 20 minutes.
People with diabetes or nerve conditions should not use cryotherapy. The full effect of cryotherapy can not be felt and may lead to more nerve damage.
Tips and guidelines for cryotherapy
As you can see there are a lot of medical conditions that can be treated with cryotherapy. Discuss what you want to achieve with your doctor first and also with the person assisting with the treatment.
When using whole body cryotherapy, you need to bring socks and gloves to protect those areas from frostbite. You should also move around to keep your blood flowing.