From ice packs to water immersion baths, the therapeutic properties of extreme cold have always been of interest.
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC), a revolutionary version of this modality, has only recently begun to draw attention to itself for its remarkable health and wellbeing effects.
This article covers all of the potential benefits of cryotherapy and helps you find out what makes this 3-minute cold chamber treatment so therapeutic.
Whole Body Cryotherapy – What You Need To Know
What is cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy essentially means “cold therapy” which extends to any type of body cooling for therapeutic purposes.
Today, whole-body cryotherapy is a medical-physical treatment in so-called cryochambers or cryosaunas, which are available in two forms.
The more popular version comes with the person standing in the chamber with the trunk exposed to hypercooler air or gas while the head remains outside at room temperature. The second variant is more like a sauna, in which one or more people sit in a chamber, which is then filled with cold air.
How does it work?
There are several suggestions as to why extreme body cooling is beneficial, the most convincing of which has to do with pain numbness.
Extreme fluctuations in temperature “shock” the pain receptors, resulting in temporary relief and calming. When the pain is blocked, the impulses that cause muscle spasms and cramps are interrupted and the affected areas are relaxed.
Another idea is that the deceptive effects of freezing triggers the brain’s emergency mode, improving blood flow and increasing adrenaline. Your core begins to heat the blood intensely to bring the heat back to the extremities, thereby improving blood flow and awakening the body’s natural healing mechanisms.
The resulting power from dry air or gas (depending on the cooling system: electric or nitrogen) is used primarily by athletes and in sports medicine to relieve muscle pain and sore muscles, to reduce inflammation caused by injuries, to eliminate muscle stiffness or simply to recover after exercise .
What to expect from a typical treatment
Humid and temperature-controlled chambers are brought to -110 ° C to -140 ° C, but the short-term exposure (maximum between 1.5 and 3 minutes) and body heat cools the skin to a bearable -35 ° C. Since the air is free of moisture, the person feels a cool breeze, but not the uncomfortable cold stinging.
Before entering the cryochamber, you must go through a -60 ° C anteroom for at least 30 ° C in order to prepare the body and slowly adjust it. The subjects should be completely naked (or at least in underwear) and carefully dried from sweat and moisture to avoid frostbite. This is another reason why the extremities are protected with gloves, slippers and socks.
The chamber time must not exceed 3 minutes, so the entire process takes less than 15 minutes in total.
Although there are expensive versions of cryotherapy for home use, cryosaunas are still most safely sold in medical treatment salons, with trained professionals, and under tightly controlled conditions.
Benefits of cryotherapy
What began as an anti-inflammatory treatment in sports medicine now finds its clients in virtually anyone who needs quick and relaxing self-time.
In fact, research continues to confirm the positive results of cryotherapy in fighting muscle tenderness, stiffness, joint pain, injuries, and even improving mental health.
Some of the most notable benefits are:
- Treat muscle damage
- Reduction of muscle inflammation and tenderness
- Improve blood circulation
- Muscle and tissue regeneration after training
- Improved cortisol levels for better athletic performance and recovery
- Positive effects of mood swings, anxiety, and depressive disorders
- Soothing effect on arthritis and other inflammatory rheumatic diseases
A pre-workout cryotherapy session effectively fights muscle soreness and inflammation by controlling the secretion of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules that can cause swelling, tenderness, and loss of muscle strength 5-7 days after exercise.
Interesting discoveries have also shown that by virtue of their relaxing and pain relieving powers, leukocytes can have positive effects on mental health and fight anxiety and mood disorders.
One study showed that rheumatoid arthritis patients could benefit from regular WBC. It has been shown to significantly reduce joint stiffness and decrease the severity of dull morning pain.
Sports-related injuries and joint dislocations can not only affect the quality of life for athletes, but can also cause chronic pain and impaired quality of life for anyone with the problem. While still a more expensive option, WBC is slowly being introduced to injury rehabilitation as a quick and fruitful treatment with little or no side effects.
The power of cold therapy has yet to be discovered. For the time being, whole-body cryotherapy chambers not only offer solutions for athletes in professional preparation, but also for everyone who is looking for a non-invasive, natural way of injury prevention and an overall increase in muscle quality and strength.
However, to be on the safe side, it is best to consult a doctor or professional before embarking on a WBC trip to make sure it is safe for your current health.