Cryotherapy was originally developed in Japan in 1978 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and the benefits have been studied and refined in Europe since that time. Cryotherapy is now utilized in the United States, and with wonderful results.
Cold Hard Facts on Cryotherapy
Most cryosaunas uses liquid nitrogen, lowering the client’s skin temperature to about 30 to 50 degrees F in a period of two or three minutes. Liquid nitrogen is used to make the cold, but clients are not in direct contact with the gas. Our skin reacts to the cold, sending messages to the brain, and it stimulates regulatory functions of the body, assisting areas that might not be working to their fullest potential.
During this time, thermoreceptors in the skin send signals to the brain to send the blood to the core to maintain body temperature with a process called vasoconstriction. Toxins are flushed from peripheral tissues and blood is enriched with oxygen, enzymes, and nutrients. The body activates all of its natural healing abilities and releases endorphins for further benefit. As the body warms up again, the enriched blood flows back through the body through a process called vasodilation. As a result, whole body cryotherapy is very effective for athletic recovery and muscle repair, reduction of chronic pain and inflammation, and an overall enhancement of health and wellness.
Vasoconstriction induces a number of giant physiologic changes in your body. Initially, as the blood vessels constrict, blood moves away from the limbs and towards the vital organs of the body. This is a protective and natural measure that the body takes in response to extreme cold. In the process, several systems within the body are affected and it is here that the benefits begin. The immune system increases the white blood cell count causing reduced inflammation and a positive, powerful immune system response. Circulation is improved and water weight is reduced as the circulatory system reacts. The endocrine system jumps into action with an endorphin and noradrenaline release and an increase of “feel good” hormones in the blood stream. A reduction in cortisol has been seen in blood sample studies as well as an increase in testosterone and DHEA. A cryotherapy session induces a total systemic response that offers many advantages: reduced pain, increased recovery, improved muscle strength and hormone production for example. “The healing time is different for everyone,” adds Wendi Michelle, Vice President of Operations at Next Health. “Someone who is looking for energy and improved sleep will benefit more quickly than perhaps someone who is treating a condition … Someone who has been in pain for years and finally feels relief will consider this an instant therapy even if the pain returns.” And all of this healing can start to happen in three minutes, sometimes less. According to a pain study regarding patients with rheumatoid disease, cold therapy reduced pain significantly. When cryotherapy becomes regular practice, inflammation and chronic pain is reduced and joints work better.
Cryotherapy has been in the US for 10 years and is very well tolerated and has minimal risks.It’s used for various conditions: from muscle recovery for athletes, to cancer treatment.
Chronic Medical Conditions
European medical studies have shown that Whole Body Cryotherapy can help alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, ankylosing spondylitis, ankylosing spondylosis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, dermatitis and osteoporosis. Studies in Europe have also shown that whole body cryotherapy is beneficial in the treatment of mood disorders, anxiety, and depression.
“Cryotherapy induces a short duration temperature stress to the body,” explains Dimitris Tsoukalas, M.D., leading expert in the application of Metabolomics and Nutritional Medicine in chronic and autoimmune diseases, as well as the author of How To Live 150 Years In Health. The hormones released during stress — cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine — increase our ability to withstand pain, fatigue, and hunger. They also decrease inflammation and related symptoms.”
Dr. Tsoukalas goes on to state that appropriate responsiveness to cold, mental stress, physical strain, dehydration, fasting, etc. is a crucial prerequisite for a sense of well-being, adequate performance of tasks, and positive social interactions. He explains that a pioneering Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye first observed stress and defined it as ‘the nonspecific response of the body to any demand for change.’”
Here are six ways cryotherapy can boost your health:
- Decreases Inflammation
- I sought out cryotherapy because of a 10 year-old torn rotator cuff and a slap-tear, which is a detachment, or tear, of the upper portion of the cartilage rim surrounding the socket bone of the shoulder. For various reasons, I do not use medications and since I have tried various chiropractic, Chinese Medicine, and massage therapy treatments, this was next in line.
- Ice, when applied to a specific area of the body, reduces inflammation, such as when you have a bruise. Cryotherapy, however, reduces inflammation throughout the body, so that healing can occur in more than one area at a time. If you have an injury on the arm and leg, for example, cryotherapy will automatically target these areas. Cryotherapy also stimulates the vagus nerve, reducing anxiety and fatigue. According to Mental Floss, the vagus nerve is literally the captain of your inner nerve center — the parasympathetic nervous system, to be specific. And like a good captain, it does a great job of overseeing a vast range of crucial functions, communicating nerve impulses to every organ in your body. New research has revealed that it may also be the missing link to treating chronic inflammation, and the beginning of an exciting new field of treatment that leaves medications behind. Stimulation of the vagus nerve also helps reduce anxiety and fatigue.
- Increases Performance Levels
- Many athletes use cryotherapy because the treatment can help them recover from their activity. Since joint and muscle strength is increased, athletes can sports-train sooner, improving outcomes. Because the muscles and tissues are not frozen, one can start exercising immediately. Enriched blood flows back through the body, through vasodilation. Unlike ice baths, muscles don’t need time to recover after cryotherapy.
- Increased Metabolism
- After a session of cryotherapy, it takes a lot of energy to reheat the body. During a three minute treatment, you burn approximately 500 to 800 calories. When skin is cooled to around 35 degrees F, it requires a lot of energy to reheat it to our regular body temperature.
- Reduction Of Chronic Pain and Fatigue
- For those that suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or general body pain, cryotherapy reduces both. Some people experience a few hours of relief, while others enjoy a relief that lasts days, and even longer. Each individual is different, so results vary, but most participants feel that three minutes of cold is worth the hours of pain relief later. One study regarding fibromyalgia patients showed that after 15 sessions of cryotherapy, pain levels were improved.
- Happiness Boost
- Rather than reach out for antidepressants, many opt for cryotherapy instead. That’s because the procedure releases endorphins into the bloodstream, and one feels their mood increasing after a cryotherapy session. The endorphins interact with pain receptors, reducing pain perception. Cortisol levels are reduced, and one feels, well … happier.
- Boosts Collagen
- Routine cryotherapy treatments can help rejuvenate the collagen matrix, improving skin’s resilience and reducing the appearance of cellulite and fatty deposits at the skin’s surface.
Three minutes of cold is worth the plethora of benefits