Cryotherapy is a medical treatment that involves the use of extremely low temperatures, typically in the range of -166 to -320 degrees Fahrenheit, to treat a variety of conditions. It is also known as cold therapy, cryosurgery or cryoablation. Cryotherapy is often used to treat conditions such as warts, skin cancer, and precancerous growths, as well as to relieve pain and inflammation in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Some people also use cryotherapy as a way to recover faster after working out or to improve their overall health and wellness.
15 Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Cryotherapy
#1: Skin rejuvenation
By increasing the flow of oxygenated blood and nutrients such as collagen, cryotherapy can also reduce eye skin damage in people of all ages.
Facial cryotherapy is becoming very popular these days, where the flow of nitrogen is directed to the skin of the face to tighten blood vessels and reduce puffiness around the eyes. This promotes cell regeneration (which means that dead cells are quickly replaced by new ones) and thus delays the formation – or deepening – of wrinkles. The treatment also helps to reduce excess fat in the facial area, making the forehead, neck and cheeks look firmer.
If you suffer from primary or secondary sleep disorder, cryotherapy can help you sleep better. Sleep problems often have symptoms such as restlessness, anxious thoughts, mood swings, physical tension, autonomic symptoms such as palpitations, etc. The result of not sleeping well is tiredness and fatigue the next day. Vital organs also suffer from this lack of rest as the healing and recovery that takes place during sleep is also impaired.
Cryotherapy has been shown to be effective in regulating sleep patterns. Results vary, of course, from person to person, but improvements were seen even after a week of 3-minute Cryo Chamber sessions.
More than 50% of Americans with migraines are forced to take sick leave, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. According to Reuters, more than $41 million is spent annually on migraine treatment in the country. Since there is no known cure, people are resigned to endure the extreme discomfort until the worst symptoms subside. The use of cold therapy (ice packs, ice baths, cold compresses, etc.) to treat migraines has been popular around the world for over 150 years. This causes narrowing of blood vessels (vasoconstriction), thereby reducing inflammation and the feeling of pain. It’s not hard to see why cryotherapy helps patients with chronic migraines find relief quickly with this treatment. However, talk to your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, before booking your first appointment.
Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones, joints, muscles, and tendons. There are more than 150 bursae in the human body and if they become inflamed, the result is severe pain in areas such as elbows, ankles, knees, shoulders, hips, thighs and foot, a condition called bursitis. Often people treat bursitis at home with pain relief medications, cold compresses, rest, and elevating the affected area. However, local cryotherapy appears to be a quick and easy pain relief method for people with bursitis. Immersing the affected area in liquid nitrogen cooled to -238°F to -274°F in a cryotherapy chamber reduces inflammation and the effects of relief are immediate. Another benefit of cryotherapy is that it also relieves arthritis, which is known to cause bursitis.
Supporters of Cryotherapy are enthusiastic about the effectiveness of the treatment in boosting the metabolism and burning 500-800 calories in a short 3-minute session in the Cryo Room. Sudden exposure to extreme cold tricks the brain into thinking that the body is in danger of freezing, so it goes into protection mode, trying to build and stabilize the core temperature to protect the important parts from damage. And as the body works to increase the core temperature, from the cold and others in the system, calories are burned with effort. The second perceived benefit of cryotherapy for obesity is the increase in brown fat (or brown adipose tissue) in the system, which is caused by cold. Iron-rich brown fat (as opposed to white fat) fights obesity and diabetes. It improves the effect of insulin, while it helps control blood sugar and increase metabolism
#6: Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, causing 37.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
As the disease progresses, brain cells begin to die, and the behavioural changes of dementia worsen. But, while Alzheimer’s disease is still considered incurable, there are treatments that can stabilize symptoms for a short period of time. Whole body cryotherapy is one of them. An article published in Medical Hypothesis writes: “Today there is a general consensus that vascular changes, oxidative stress and inflammatory responses contribute to the development of AD. By following these processes and finding anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant of cryostimulation, we declare that full cryotherapy can be used as a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease”.
With a slowly progressive disease such as AD, it is difficult to determine whether intervention and other factors such as cryotherapy are curative or preventive in nature. But as the experiments progressed, the patients revealed that the sessions showed better results in cognitive functions and memory areas.
#7: Depression and anxiety
Unfortunately, people with anxiety and depression do not seek medical help because of the fear of social stigma or the use of drugs that make the mental state worse. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety And Depression Association Of America, but only 36% come forward to seek help. It is well known that holistic solutions – which do not involve drugs – can help people with mental disorders, and cryotherapy is one of them.
Exposure to extremely cold temperatures during a cryotherapy session induces a physiological hormonal response. “Happy” hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and endorphins fill the system, and the negative effects of high cortisol (the stress hormone) are greatly reduced.
Patients are happier when their brains are free from the paralyzing grip of cortisol. They feel relaxation, high mood, good memories, freshness, and good sleep, which can last for several weeks from one session in the cryotherapy room.
#8: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a degenerative disease that occurs when the immune system begins to attack the protective covering (called myelin) around nerve fibres, causing them to become damaged. In such an event, the brain cannot send optimal signals throughout the body and patients experience various symptoms such as imbalance, muscle weakness, poor vision, fatigue and – chronic pain, depression, etc.
While some people with MS do not experience the full extent of MS, others may lose motor skills and progress irrevocably and become wheelchair bound over time. Cryotherapy has been shown to be effective in some controlled studies in MS patients and helps them control their symptoms.
For example, a study found that just ten full sessions of cryotherapy reduced oxidative stress in depressed MS patients. Another experiment found that cryotherapy improved quality of life by reducing fatigue. In a third study, patients reported that they can exercise more and longer when exposed to cryotherapy in a controlled period of 1 to 3 months.
#9: Prostate cancer
The US has one of the highest rates of prostate cancer in men. According to the latest figures from the American Cancer Society, 174,650 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2019, 6% more than last year. Research shows that cryotherapy can help men with early stage prostate cancer, and even those whose cancer has returned after other treatments by freezing the prostate tissue until the cancer cells die.
Although many cancer experts are convinced that this treatment is effective, it still comes with some caveats. Men who are still sexually active, who have had surgery for rectal cancer, or who have large tumours that cannot be found without harming the surrounding tissue are not advised to try cryotherapy.
Fibromyalgia is a disease of chronic fatigue, body pain, memory problems and mood swings. More than 3.7 million people in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia (mostly women between the ages of 40 and 75), but medical science can point to various conditions as possible causes – such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, obesity, infectious diseases, physical illness. / emotional trauma and hormonal changes.
Fibromyalgia is not life-threatening, never the less, it impairs quality of life to varying degrees. And cryotherapy has proven to be very effective in restoring balance to the mind that has been disturbed by the disease. A clinical trial report, published in Complementary Therapies In Medicine stated that ten cryotherapy sessions were given to a random group over eight days, after which the patients reported a “significant improvement in quality of life”.
These effects lasted for at least a month, which means that continuing the cryotherapy session can make the fibromyalgia symptoms change for a long time.
#11: Chronic Back pain
More than 31 million adults in the United States report experiencing acute or chronic back pain. There are many causes of back pain, such as torn muscles or tendons, obesity, arthritis, poor posture, ruptured discs, etc. But regardless of the cause, the impact back pain can have on people’s daily lives can be overwhelming.
Use of painkillers, stimulants, nerve injections, etc. all provide temporary relief. But one of the most promising treatments available to treat back pain is cryotherapy. Even after a week after a session, many back pain sufferers say they can still feel the relief they got from cryotherapy. Here are three main reasons why cryotherapy works so well for back problems:
- Sudden exposure to extreme cold for less than 3 minutes is sufficient to reduce muscle activity – and therefore pain.
- Cryotherapy prevents blood circulation in the traumatized area, reducing discomfort caused by inflammation.
In 3 uncontrolled studies, cryotherapy was found to increase the presence of inflammatory proteins (cytokines IL-6, IL-10 and IL-1ra). It also reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (proteins).
Arthritis is one of the major disabilities in the United States. More than 54.4 million American adults suffer from this painful condition that affects more than 100 joints in the body. The use of cold compresses and ice baths to reduce inflammation and pain is well known. Cryotherapy takes this arthritis treatment several steps further by exposing the body to extreme cold for 3 minutes or less, helping with inflamed and painful joints. A short and sudden exposure to extreme cold on the skin causes endorphins to be released immediately, making people less aware of pain. Studies have shown that patients suffering from arthritis report the following benefits after undergoing a whole body cryotherapy procedure:
- Progress and impact on their overall well-being.
- Significant reduction in pain associated with swollen and inflamed joints.
- Improved motion control. The benefits of cryotherapy have helped arthritis patients cope with aggressive physical and occupational therapy, making these rehabilitation programs more effective.
- 35-40% of patients report that they have reduced their medications (such as glucocorticoids and non-steroidal anti-rheumatic drugs) after receiving cryotherapy for chronic arthritis.
#13: After surgery
After any surgery, big or small, there is a forced recovery period during which patients have to deal with swelling, bruising and, of course, pain. The treatment process is not easy, but cryotherapy has proven to be a good recovery solution that acts quickly and controls post-operative stress. Just 3 minutes or less spent in the cryotherapy chamber stimulates the body’s natural healing process with oxygen, enzymes and nutrients that replenish blood flow.
Benefits of cryotherapy after surgery include:
- Reduction of surgical pain.
- Reduce inflammation or trauma caused by surgery.
- Strengthen the immune system.
- Accelerate muscle and nerve repair.
- Improved flexibility.
- Post surgery depression management.
#14: After exercise
Athletes were among the first to support cryotherapy. The treatment has already accelerated recovery in the field of sports medicine, and has become more popular among gym-goers, runners and enthusiasts who now use it for quick relief. Spending a few minutes in the cryotherapy room after exercise helps them recover between one workout and another on the same day.
Cryotherapy after exercise helps to:
- Relieve delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
- Restore functional muscle strength after intense exercise.
- Lower body temperature after prolonged exercise.
- promote detoxification and repair of damaged cells after exercise.
- Increase blood circulation and metabolic rate.
- Promotes a sense of well-being and keeps motivation focused on the exercise program.
#15. Atopic dermatitis and other skin conditions
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin disease characterized by dry, itchy skin. Since cryotherapy can improve blood antioxidant levels and can reduce inflammation at the same time, it makes sense that local areas and the whole body can help treat atopic dermatitis. One study (in mice) looked at its effect on acne, focusing on the sebaceous glands. The results showed that cryotherapy can help reduce acne and gland size, although it did not affect the number of glands. In general, the condition of the skin treated with cryotherapy improves significantly, with less itching and less inflammation and redness. Cryotherapy can also reduce the redness caused by rosacea and acne, lighten dark spots, and eliminate subcutaneous toxins, leaving you fresh and radiant after just one treatment.
It’s important to note that cryotherapy should be used in conjunction with other treatments and should not be used as a replacement for evidence-based therapies. If you are considering using cryotherapy for any health condition, it’s important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional.