What is Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy has made its way into wellness routines and health spas, attracting interest for its purported benefits on recovery, pain management, and overall well-being. Keep reading to learn more about its effectiveness.

By URLife Team
06 Jan 2024

Remember those times when we'd get a bump or a bruise, and our parents would quickly grab some ice to soothe the swelling? Well, that's a similar to the idea behind cryotherapy. Just as applying ice reduces inflammation and eases pain, cryotherapy uses cold temperatures to promote healing and relief in different ways. It's a bit more high-tech, but at its core, it's a modern take on an age-old remedy.


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Cryotherapy is an innovative and intriguing wellness practice that involves exposing the body to freezing or near-freezing temperatures for short bursts of 2 to 4 minutes. Originating from the Greek words "cryo," meaning cold, and "therapy," meaning cure, cryotherapy uses freezing temperatures to promote various health benefits.


Different types of substances are used to create the intense cold temperature or near-freezing temperature used in cryotherapy. The substances generally used are liquid nitrogen, liquid nitrous oxide or argon gas.


Cryotherapy can be used in different ways. The chambers involve whole-body exposure to extremely cold temperatures for a few minutes. Additionally, athletes often use localised cryotherapy devices or garments, like those freezing pants, to target specific areas for recovery or pain relief after workouts or injuries.


It is important to note that cryotherapy is not the same as cold bath or ice showers. They're similar in some ways but the method of application is different. Cryotherapy involves exposing the body to very cold air or gas for a short time, while a cold bath immerses the body in cold water. Both aim to reduce inflammation and help with muscle recovery, but the methods of application are distinct.


Also, medical cryotherapy used by doctors is different from whole body cryotherapy. Medical cryotherapy targets specific areas for treating certain conditions using localised cryotherapy. It is also used by doctors to freeze and remove abnormal tissue. It can be used to treat various skin conditions such as warts and skin tags, and cancers including prostate, cervical and liver cancer.


Medical cryotherapy is generally considered safe as it is done under the supervision of a medical team.


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Benefits of Cryotherapy

Relieves Pain and Sore Muscles

Cryotherapy provides relief for muscle pain and certain joint conditions like arthritis. Similarly, using ice packs on sore muscles has long been recommended by doctors to enhance blood circulation and aid in healing. A 2000 study showcased cryotherapy offered temporary relief from rheumatoid arthritis pain and its effectiveness in reducing exercise-induced damage.


Another 2017 study by the Human Kinetics Journal supported that cryotherapy provided muscle pain relief and aided the healing process. However, the same study found that cold water immersion was more effective than whole-body cryotherapy.


Aids Weight Loss

When the body is exposed to cold temperatures during cryotherapy, it responds by increasing its metabolic rate. This heightened metabolism leads to the body burning more calories to maintain its core temperature. As the metabolism accelerates, the body requires more energy, which it typically sources from stored fat. Consequently, the increased metabolic rate during and after cryotherapy sessions can contribute to weight loss efforts by aiding in the burning of additional calories throughout the day. Over time, this increased calorie expenditure can potentially assist individuals in achieving their weight loss goals.


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Reduces Inflammation

The exposure to cold temperatures used in cryotherapy triggers vasoconstriction. This causes blood vessels to constrict and reduce blood flow to the affected area. As the body warms up again after the therapy, fresh blood flows back, assisting in flushing out toxins and reducing inflammation. This anti-inflammatory response is often beneficial for individuals with inflammatory conditions or recovering from injuries.


What is Whole Body Cryotherapy and Does it Work?

Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) involves exposing the entire body to extremely cold temperatures, typically using liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air for a short duration, usually around two to four minutes. It's different from localised cryotherapy, where only specific parts of the body are subjected to cold temperatures. Also, it is usually taken in a chamber or a closure.


The primary difference lies in the area of exposure. While localised cryotherapy targets a particular body part, such as joints or muscles, using ice packs or ice baths, whole-body cryotherapy immerses the entire body in a cryo-chamber or cryo-sauna. In whole body cryotherapy, the temperature can drop significantly lower than in localised cryotherapy, reaching around -200 to -300 degrees Fahrenheit.


However, it is important to note that the FDA has stated that there isn't sufficient scientific evidence supporting the safety or health benefits of whole-body cryotherapy. No whole-body cryotherapy device has been cleared or approved by the FDA for treating medical conditions. As a result, this treatment remains unproven and may carry potential risks. Before considering the use of this technology, it's advisable to consult with your doctor to discuss the decision thoroughly.


Downsides of Cryotherapy

Risk of Frostbite or Burns

Prolonged exposure or incorrect use of cryotherapy chambers may lead to frostbite or burns on the skin.


Potential Adverse Reactions

Some individuals might experience adverse reactions such as skin irritation, redness, or numbness after cryotherapy sessions.


Limited Research on Long-Term Effects

There's limited scientific evidence regarding the long-term effects and safety of frequent cryotherapy use.


Not Suitable for Everyone

Cryotherapy may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions or sensitivities, such as those with cardiovascular issues, hypertension, or nerve disorders. Also, individuals with cardiovascular or liver conditions should consult their doctor before undergoing any such therapies.


Expense and Accessibility

Regular sessions in cryotherapy facilities might be costly, and access to such facilities might be limited in some regions, making it less accessible to everyone.


The current scientific evidence doesn't offer a clear answer about whether whole-body cryotherapy effectively prevents or treats specific conditions, speeds up recovery, or enhances athletic performance. Even if it does, there's little proof that it surpasses more affordable cryotherapy options, like using ice on a sore spot. However, if you are opting for the same,consult your doctor and seek advice from them.


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Looking for an exclusive and unique experience, expert staff, and unparalleled member services? Come join us at URLife Studios! We offer a comprehensive range of wellness services that promote optimum well-being. We are a trusted source for unique holistic health and pregnancy care workshops. Our physiotherapists design customised rehab programs based on health conditions. 



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