Cryotherapy or “cold therapy”, is a treatment procedure that involves exposing the body to extremely cold temperatures for a few minutes. Cryotherapy can be administered to one specific area, but you can also decide for whole-body cryotherapy. Localized cryotherapy treatments can be performed in several ways, including ice massages, ice packs, ice baths, coolant sprays, and even through probes inserted into tissues. There are many cryotherapy benefits and this article will provide you with all the information you need to help you decide whether it is something worth trying or not.
The main theory around whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is that by exposing or immersing the body in extremely cold temperature for a few minutes would give it a number of health benefits. In a typical cryotherapy session, a patient is asked to stand in an enclosed chamber or a small enclosure with an opening for their head. The temperature within the enclosure will drop to somewhere between 200-300°F. Patients are required to stay in the enclosure for around two to four minutes. Anything longer than that is considered dangerous.
It’s possible to get cryotherapy benefits in just one session, but it’s better if you do it regularly. Athletes are known to get cryotherapy at least twice a day. Others, on the other hand, can go for daily cryotherapy sessions for ten days, and then once a month afterwards.
Cosmetic Benefits of Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is known to stimulate one’s metabolism and the skin’s collagen production, which is why not only athletes use this kind of treatment but celebrities and models too! Cryotherapy is said to be effective in reducing the appearance of cellulite resulting to tighter, younger-looking skin. The reason for this is because it stimulates the body’s natural ability to produce collagen. Normally, our bodies slows the production of collagen by the time we are 30 years old. But whole-body cryotherapy can fix that problem.
A three-minute cryotherapy treatment causes blood vessels to dilate, resulting to oxygen rich blood and endorphins rushing through the body. Increased production of collagen also gives your skin better texture and elasticity, both of which are important in fighting against the signs of aging.
Another benefit of cryotherapy is its ability to reduce eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Below are just some of the benefits you can get out of cryotherapy that are worth looking into.
- Reduce Symptoms of Migraine –cryotherapy is known to effectively treat migraines. It works by cooling and numbing one’s nerves in the neck area. It is said that applying a neck wrap with two frozen ice packs to the neck (particularly to the carotid arteries) works to significantly reduce migraine-related pain. The ice pack cools the blood passing through the intracranial vessels thus resulting to reduced migraine.
- Numb Irritated Nerves –athletes have been using cryotherapy for years as a means to treat their injuries. One of the reasons why cryotherapy is so popular for treating injuries is because it can numb pain. The cold temperature can actually numb irritated nerves. Doctors treat patients by inserting a small probe into the nearby tissues of the affected area. Cryotherapy can help treat neuromas or pinched nerves, chronic pain, and even acute injuries.
- Helps in Treating Mood Disorders –cryotherapy can cause changes in one’s physiological hormonal responses including the production of endorphins, noradrenaline and adrenaline. This can be a good thing for those suffering from mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
- Reduce Pain Caused by Arthritis –cryotherapy isn’t only used for treating serious health problems. It is also an effective treatment option for reducing arthritis-related pain. A study found that cryotherapy treatment was well-tolerated for arthritis and that it also gave way to more intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy. In a way, cryotherapy made rehabilitation programs a lot more effective.
- Can be Used to Treat Low-Risk Tumors –localized cryotherapy can be used for cancer treatment. In this situation, it is referred to as ‘cryosurgery’. This works by freezing cancer cells and removing them. Cryosurgery is used for treating low-risk tumors for specific types of cancers, such as prostate cancer.
- May Help in the Prevention of Alzheimer’s and Dementia –although more research is needed in this matter, it has been theorized that can help prevent Alzheimer’s and some forms of dementia. It is considered to be an effective treatment due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects.
- Effective Treatment for Atopic Dermatitis and Other Skin Problems –atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin problem that is characterized by dry and itchy skin. Since cryotherapy is known to improve antioxidant levels in the blood and reduce inflammation, it makes sense to use it for the treatment of atopic dermatitis.
What Are the Risks and Side Effects of Cryotherapy?
Besides cryotherapy benefits, we will also be discussing the risks and side effects of this treatment in this article. The most common side effects of any cryotherapy treatment are as follows:
- Tingling sensation
- Skin irritation
There’s no need to worry because these side effects are just temporary. If, in case, they do not subside within 24 hours, call your doctor right away.
It should be noted that you shouldn’t use cryotherapy for more than the recommended three to four minutes. For whole body cryotherapy, this would be just around four minutes. If you’re using an ice pack or taking an ice bath at home, don’t apply ice to the area for over 20 minutes. To avoid damaging your skin, wrap ice packs in towels.
Patients with diabetes or health conditions that affect their nerves are advised against using cryotherapy treatment. Not only will they not be able to completely feel its effect, but it can damage their nerves even more.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence and research backing up claims of cryotherapy benefits especially when it comes to health and cosmetic reasons. However, it remains a fairly new treatment and more studies need to be done to prove the health benefits it claims to give. If you’re interested in trying it out, consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first so they can give you an honest assessment whether it’s something you need or not.