Just like float therapy or ice bath therapy, cryotherapy has risen to popularity within recent years. More and more people are using cryotherapy to aid recovery and improve performance, from well-known celebrities and athletes to the average person. Although cryotherapy seems like a relatively new and exciting therapy, the use of cold temperatures to reduce pain is not a new concept.
People around the world have used cold therapy to reduce pain, support healing, and elevate mood. Cold water therapy, like cold plunges and ice baths, involve brief stints in chilled environments. What differentiates cryotherapy from these other types of cold therapy is the duration and temperatures. A cryotherapy chamber, or cryochamber, is cooled at varying temperatures, typically between minus 200 and minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit. You can start with a warmer temperature of minus 130 degrees if that makes you more comfortable.
What Is Cryotherapy?
This type of treatment uses extremely cold air, typically by using liquid nitrogen or argon gas. Typically, liquid nitrogen is applied to a specific area to destroy abnormal cells, such as cancerous cells or tumors. Small-scale cryotherapy can include ice bath immersion or cryotherapy facials. The cry-chambers are full-body treatments that involve sitting or standing for two to three minutes. During this process you expose your body to freezing temperatures, wearing only socks, underwear, and gloves to protect your extremities. Continue reading to learn about the potential health benefits of cryotherapy.
May Improve Sleep
Based on existing studies, cryotherapy may help improve sleep. One study out of China monitored middle- and long-distance runners and found that whole body cryotherapy (WBC) reduced inflammation and muscle damage post exercise. Researchers conducting that study also noted that subjects reported better sleep quality after WBC, when compared to other forms of cryotherapy. A 2019 study found that soccer players moved less during the night and reported better sleep after three minutes of partial body cryotherapy. Researchers speculate that cryotherapy activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This puts the body in a rest and digest stage and makes it easier to relax.
Although cryotherapy may improve muscle performance and recovery, it may also boost your mental health. The sudden drop in temperature when you step inside the WBC sparks the production of mood-enhancing endorphins, which make you feel more energetic and happier. Experts equate that rush to a runner’s high or that feeling you get when you take an ice cold shower. Cryotherapy may also boost your mood because it counteracts pain, releasing norepinephrine and adrenaline, which promote circulation and mobilization. More research is necessary to determine that link, though.
You already know that applying cold packs or ice to a painful joint, for example, can help reduce pain. Similarly, applying a cold pack to an inflamed area after surgery can bring down the swelling and accelerate healing time. One report found that WBC is a great form of physical treatment for recovery from injuries, trauma, or overuse. A 2017 review included results from 16 studies and articles, citing evidence that improved recovery in athletes and athletic performance. Researchers noted that WBD did not cause any unwanted side effects.
Reduced Inflammation And Tissue Damage
In the same 2017 review that we just mentioned above, researchers noted that cryotherapy was able to reduce system inflammation. Additionally, WBC helped lower inflammatory markers for muscle cell damage. Although that review may have provided that evidence, not every researcher believes that cryotherapy fights inflammation. A 2014 review, for example, found that the evidence was weak in regards to activating parasympathetic response and altering inflammatory pathways. Another review, however, found that WBC was able to decrease proinflammatory cytokines and other markers of muscle tissue damage.