Cryotherapy: Why You Should Care
Cryotherapy is a hot trend that has a cult following in the recovery, wellness and beauty industries. You may have heard people talking about it or seen celebrities or athletes posting themselves coming out of icy cold chambers on social media, but what is cryotherapy and why is everyone talking about it?
At its most basic form, cryotherapy is simply the use of cold temperatures to heal the body. Using the cold to help our bodies recover from injury, inflammation, soreness or for relaxation has been used since the beginning of time. Putting ice on a wound or bruise, jumping in a cold lake or taking an ice bath are all forms of basic cryotherapy. All of these methods cause stagnant blood to start moving again — promoting new blood flow which brings healing. All forms of cold therapy are widely accepted methods of recovery but can be quite uncomfortable, inconvenient and extremely inefficient compared to modern-day cryotherapy using dry air cryotherapy chambers.
Modern-day cryotherapy lends from past modalities of cold to provide a much more comfortable, convenient and effective form of recovery with cryotherapy chambers. Cryotherapy chambers provide a quick, two to three minute private session of whole body exposure to extreme low temperatures in a dry, contained and breathable air environment. Add in some music, colorful lights and fog from the cold and it becomes a fun experience that completely distracts from how cold it really is.
What It Does
The goal of true whole-body cryotherapy is to expose as much skin as possible to temperatures of roughly -166 degrees Fahrenheit or below for a short period of time — two to three minutes — to create a drop in the external skin temperature of 30 to 40 degrees. The best way to measure this is to use an infrared temperature device before and after the session on the back of the upper arm, measuring the delta between two temperature readings. The results are illustrated in this thermographic image below that shows the outer skin temperature dropping while the core temperature remains intact.
Effects of Whole Body Cryotherapy On the Body
Blood rushing to the core is our body’s natural way of protecting our core organs from extreme cold. When exposed to extreme cold temperatures, blood rushes from our extremities to our core, creating a systemic response throughout the body that produces a myriad of benefits. As mentioned above, cold promotes increased blood flow which brings fresh, oxygenated blood full of healing white blood cells to areas of the body that need it.
What Happens in Vagus, Happens Everywhere
According to a paper published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, whole-body cryotherapy amplifies positive effects and adds many more incredible benefits by activating the vagus nerve and causing vasoconstriction and vasodilation. The vagus nerve is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions. The vagus nerve is activated by cold on the back of the neck and effects every major organ in the body.
Who Should Be Doing Whole-body Cryotherapy?
Whole-body cryotherapy is not just for extreme athletes or those with present injuries. Best practice is for healthy, normal adults and minors with a doctor’s note to practice whole-body cryotherapy three to five times per week on a regular basis. It is important to maintain a constant regimen of cryotherapy and not just use it when you feel you need it or are injured. It should be added to your routine as a continual recovery modality that helps the body stay healthy and even resist injuries and illness.
Yes, whole-body cryotherapy has been shown to strengthen the body’s immune system and fight against viruses by increased white blood cell count throughout the body! That topic alone calls for an article of its own so we won’t dive into that here.