Cryotherapy might sound like something NASA prescribes to the astronauts, but it’s actually a very simple and beneficial treatment available to almost everyone. The key is to expose the human body to extremely low temperatures for a few minutes which shocks the body and helps cure all sorts of ailments. The reasons why people opt for this treatment are different, from muscle ache and fatigue to mood improvement and pure curiosity, but most “patients” report great results. So if you want to know more about this mysterious cryotherapy, here’s a little guide that will make the whole thing a lot clearer.
How does it work?
The main philosophy behind cryotherapy is to expose the body to extremely cold temperatures. Benefits of cold are not something newly discovered, though. Even ancient Egyptians 4500 years ago used cold to treat injuries and inflammation, but modern cryotherapy is a bit different. Most cryotherapy chambers of today use liquid nitrogen to lower the temperatures anywhere from -110 to -150 degrees Celsius. This might sound very dangerous, but most treatments last for only a few minutes (5 minute or less)which is too short to achieve hypothermia. However, temperatures this cool are said to cause various positive bodily changes, both physical and mental.
What are the benefits?
There are various benefits cryotherapy users report, but probably the most frequent one is pain relief. Cold therapy increases the pain threshold and reduces pain and muscle spasms. During one cryotherapy session, the human body goes through a lot of stress and produces stress hormones like cortisol, dopamine and adrenaline. These hormones increase the pain resistance and prevent fatigue. The release of inflammatory mediators also slows down when the body is exposed to extreme temperatures with reduces inflammatory processes in the body. In case of an acute injury, cryotherapy can be used to lower the temperature of body tissues, which narrows downs the blood vessels, stops the bleeding and reduces pain.
In post-surgery recover, many specialists recommend cooling sessions with their physical therapy for pain management, muscle spasms and edema. Athletes are also frequent users of cryotherapy because it helps them with muscle soreness and injury-induced muscle recovery. The principle is similar to the traditional ice baths, but cryotherapy chambers are much safer. Ice baths require you to stay in the icy water for around 10 minutes which can cause hypothermia. On the other hand, cryotherapy results in a more comfortable healing experience that lasts for only a few minutes.
In order to reheat the body after a cryotherapy session, the human body needs to burn a lot of calories. When you combine that with shivering, a five-minute session can burn as much as 800 calories. Plus, stress the body undergoes and all the hormones released tend to act as hunger suppressants, which means you can even lose weight with freezing!
How often should you use cryotherapy?
There’s no one true answer to this question because it greatly depends on your condition. Most people who want to boost their physical health and need a little boost of energy use cryotherapy once or twice a week. However, if you have an injury or an inflammation, two to four sessions a week can help with pain relief and keeping the illness at bay.
Is it safe for me?
If you’re worried about the extreme cold, there’s absolutely no need- the sessions are too short to cause hypothermia. The treatment is perfectly safe for most people and even if it sounds like the cold is unbearable, it’s not actually so bad. On the other hand, the cold can compromise blood flow in people with diabetes and sufferers from cardiovascular issues should consult their doctor before booking a cryotherapy session. Cryotherapy is still not FDA approved, so the final decision is yours.
All in all, cryotherapy is certainly something to try out. No matter if you’re a professional athlete, gym noob wanting relief from muscle pain, post-op patient on physical therapy or someone who battles chronic pain, cryotherapy can be a great way to manage your issues. It’s completely natural, fast and exciting, so book a session and get ready to feel completely restored!