How Cold Therapy Can Help Your Wellness & Recovery
Cryotherapy is a term a lot of people are hearing about recently. Sports athletes, MMA fighters, fitness experts and regular everyday people are promoting cryotherapy on social media.
But what is this therapy and is it something that you should try?
What is a Cryotherapy?
Ice baths are a common recommendation for anyone that engages in rigorous exercise and wants to be able to promote recovery, ease pain and help alleviate soreness. But the true benefit of an ice bath is hard to achieve without filling the tub with ice.
Cold showers do not cause a person’s body temperature to drop nearly as much as a cryosauna would be able to do.
The typical machine will drop temperatures to between -130°F and -180°F. Cooling is done with nitrogen vapor and a dry chill technology designed to rapidly cool the chamber.
The Same Name for the Same Term
If you’re new to the world of cryotherapy, you’re probably reading and hearing a lot of different terms:
These terms all describe the same machine. One manufacturer might call their cryotherapy machine a cryopod and another may call it a cyrochamber, but they all have the same function and work in a similar fashion.
Cryosauna benefits are just emerging as more people start to engage in the practice. Strict protocols need to be followed to ensure safety, but following basic guidelines from manufacturers of cryotherapy machines can help.
Studies have been done more often on this practice due to athletes and fitness experts recommending it.
Brian Shaw, former four-time World’s Strongest Man, posted on Facebook how he would take ice baths in a livestock tub to help boost his recovery. Several strongmen also follow similar practices with great results.
Results are what prove this therapy works.
Additional scientific studies are coming out to back these initial results, including:
When first trying Cryotherapyfor yourself, you’ll want to know what the key benefit of this therapy are and how it can help you. A few of the many benefits that people experience with cryotherapy are:
Migraines impact millions of people worldwide. When a debilitating migraine hits, it is often difficult to find relief. One study found that icing the carotid arteries with an ice pack was able to significantly reduce the migraine pain of sufferers.
You can apply an icepack to these regions of the body, or you can enter a cryopod for relief.
Cold packs have long been used for pain relief and can help keep swelling down, too. When a person is suffering from pain, these chambers provide immediate relief. Nerve irritation can also be alleviated with routine sessions.
Mood Disorder Help
Very cold temperatures, like those you’ll be subjected to in these chambers, produce a hormonal response in the body. A few of the many hormones that are released are:
Studies show that the relief for mood disorders is short-term, but the therapy can help treat anxiety and depression. Long-term use can further help keep these hormone levels high in the body to better combat mood disorders.
Arthritic Pain Relief
Arthritic pain can be reduced with cryotherapy, and while the therapy is often localized, a chamber can help to alleviate pain. Joint pain is often the result of swelling, and ice therapy is highly effective at keeping swelling at moderate levels.
One study found that after therapy, participants were able to better engage in occupational and physiotherapy.
Dermatitis and Skin Condition Relief
Cold temperatures are often associated with dry and flaky skin. Heating systems lead to lack of moisture in the skin causing itchy, dry skin to occur. But cryotherapy actually improves the antioxidant levels in the body.
Coupled with the cold’s ability to reduce inflammation, this therapy is a great option to treat atopic dermatitis.
One study on mice found that acne can also be treated if the sebaceous glands are targeted. Ice therapy can help improve many skin conditions, and a cryopod is a good option for treating many of these common skin conditions.
The additional antioxidants in the body will also provide antiaging benefits along with help for eczema, edema and other skin-related issues. An additional benefit, which is discussed in greater detail in the coming sections, is that blood flow is slowed and increased with cryotherapy.
Nutrients can travel to the skin with greater efficacy thanks to the cold’s ability to constrict and open the blood vessels.
Greater nutrients, and blood flow, helps the skin maintain its elasticity and is great for antiaging. While you’ll find better overall results with a multi-prong approach to antiaging, cryotherapy can still do wonders for your skin on its own.
Dementia is a serious disease, and any time any form of therapy states that it can help with dementia, it’s going to draw a lot of skepticism. Additional studies are needed on the topic, but a 2012 study claims that cryotherapy may be able to help prevent dementia through:
Reduced oxidative stress
Both inflammation and oxidative stress are associated with dementia, so reducing these two key contributors can, hypothetically, help to prevent this disease. Cryotherapy is also associated with having a clearer mind, and since oxidative stress is lowered, the body will be better able to stave off:
Mild cognitive impairment
More studies in this area need to be performed, but cryotherapy definitely seems to help lower many of the key contributors to dementia.
Reduced Muscle Soreness
Muscle soreness is common in everyone, from athletes and gym goers to people working in their backyards. Since cryotherapy reduces pain, a lot of intense athletes will enter into one of these chambers in an effort to alleviate muscle soreness.
Inflammation is lowered thanks to the cold therapy.
One study found that participants that went into a chamber for therapy experienced significant relief from muscle soreness. Ice water seemed to provide more muscle soreness relief versus its chamber counterpart, but all forms of muscle relief allowed for faster recovery time.
Quicker Muscle Recovery Time
Muscle recovery allows for the muscle fibers to heal and allows you to get back to intense workout sessions faster. A key reason a lot of strongmen use ice baths is because they promote healing and help reduce inflammation.
Recovery is achieved through the slowing of the blood flow into the muscles and allows for the opening of the blood vessels, too.
The process involves the lymph nodes, which are responsible for moving all of the stagnant fluid in the body. Since blood flow is constricted and increased in cold temperatures, the body allows the lymph nodes to catch back up and provides your cells with more:
Your cells, following a workout, are starved and will require as much nutrients as possible to promote muscle repair and growth. Since the lymph nodes can push nutrients into the muscles with greater efficiency, the muscles are able to repair faster.
Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that cryotherapy may be able to treat or prevent cancer from occurring. A lot of research needs to be done in this respect because the research and studies are too varied to come to a conclusive answer.
The link is currently trying to be established because we do know that medical cryotherapy does work for treating some forms of cancer, but the treatments are still too different to be coupled together. Medically, the cancer cells are frozen and removed, but this cannot take place in a chamber.
While anecdotal, it will be interesting to see if future studies are able to find a way to treat cancer in a cryochamber.
A few of the additional benefits that this therapy offers are:
Every session will have a lasting impact on the body, allowing for the full impact to be felt after a six to eight-hour period. Effects are compounding, with people using these machines stating that they feel better over-time.
Since the body is cooled drastically, a person’s metabolic rate will increase for the entire day, helping burn 500 to 800 more calories daily. The number of calories burned will vary for everyone.
Potential Side Effects
Every form of therapy has its benefits and potential side effects. The side effects can be serious if you stay in the machine beyond the recommend time, so keep this in mind during every session. Aside from staying in the machine too long, you may experience:
If you have nerve conditions or diabetes, you’ll want to avoid cryotherapy unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Always consult with a doctor before trying Cryotherapy if you have any underlying conditions that may prevent you from feeling the full impact of therapy.
Cryotherapy machine costs are coming down in price. The technology is advanced, and you’ll spend a lot of money on your own machine. One retailer that I highly recommend for purchasing a cryotherapy machine is eBay.
You can find new and pre-owned models with the pre-owned models costing 30% to 40% less than new.
If you want to save a lot of money on the following brands, eBay is your best bet:
Impact Cryotherapy Machine
eBay also has a lot of great cryotherapy machines, but be sure to pay close attention to seller ratings and reviews. Find a seller that has stellar ratings and reviews before making a purchase.