Let’s say that you’ve recently started a new workout routine. After a session, you’re wondering what you can do to soothe your muscles. There’s one method: step into a cold room wearing gloves, socks, and shoes, for 3-4 minutes. If this is something that you’ve heard of, then you may be using cryotherapy techniques. Cryotherapy has become very popular in recent years, mostly due to many celebrities and athletes using it.
But what exactly is cryotherapy? In this blog, TABIIB takes a look at cryotherapy, its uses and benefits.
What is cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a technique where the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes. Cryotherapy is used for a specific body part, such as joints, or for the whole body.
The idea behind cryotherapy techniques is that cold helps reduce inflammation. That is true, to an extent, since cold acts as a vasoconstrictor and stabilizes blood flow. This therapy can treat tissue externally (on the skin) and internally (inside the body).
Believers of cryotherapy say the experience can help muscles recover faster after workouts, heal joints, speed up metabolism, or even slow the ageing process.
- Cryosurgery: Cryosurgery is the use of liquid nitrogen to remove unwanted items from the skin. This includes skin discolourations, moles, superficial cancer cells, and basal cancer cells. The targeted cold exposure method effectively stops the skin issues to resurface.
- Cryolipolysis: Cryolipolysis is the freezing of fat cells to induce cell breakdown which in turn is reabsorbed into the body. This surgery is mainly cosmetic and used for body contouring purposes. It’s a non-invasive way to remove fat cells and not damage other tissues in the body.
You can feel the benefits of cryotherapy after just one session but it’s the most effective after regular sessions.
Benefits of cryotherapy
Preliminary research shows that cryotherapy has the following benefits:
- Offers pain relief and muscle healing: It can help with muscle pain, as well as some joint and muscle disorders, such as arthritis. Ice helps increase blood flow and circulation which reduces inflammation and swelling. A study supports the benefits of the theory of muscle healing using this technique.
- Numbs irritated nerves: Athletes have been using cryotherapy for years to treat their injuries. One of the reasons is that the cold can actually numb pain. The temperature numbs irritated nerves and resolves issues such as nerve pinches and chronic pain.
- Decreases migraine occurrences: This therapy can help treat migraines by cooling and numbing nerves in the neck area. One study showed that the use of icepacks to the affected tense muscles decreased stiffness significantly. The decrease of tension also reduced stress on the cranial nerves.
- Treats skin disorders: Localized cryotherapy improves antioxidant levels in the blood. This helps mainly in treating skin conditions such as dermatitis.
- Treats mood disorders: Research shows that cryotherapy may help treat mental health conditions linked to inflammation. The ultra-cold temperatures can cause positive hormonal responses. This includes the release of adrenaline and endorphins.
The Bottom Line
Since cryotherapy is a particularly new practise, there’s very little body of literature that supports its benefits. However, anecdotally there are instances of it being helpful. The use of cold for treating external and internal issues is a good strategy, but it can have a few side effects. Before you book yourself in for an intense freezing session, consult with your doctor first.