What is Cryotherapy? Types and Benefits of Cold Therapy
Cryotherapy, or “cold therapy”, is a natural treatment method that has been used to both alleviate and to prevent a long list of health-related conditions. Cultures have been using icy cold temperatures as a treatment modality for hundreds of years, and it’s just as commonplace today as it was centuries ago. In fact, you’ve probably used cryotherapy yourself. For example, if you’ve ever applied an ice pack to a twisted ankle or you’ve soaked in an icy bath to ease aching muscles, then you have definitely practiced cold therapy.
With this natural treatment process, a part or the entire body is exposed to super-cold temperatures for a short amount of time for the purpose of alleviating pain and promoting healing. But cryotherapy can do more than just ease pain; it provides a long list of other benefits. If you’re looking for a natural way to boost your overall physical and mental health and well-being, cryotherapy may be the solution for you! Keep on reading to learn more about how cryotherapy works, the different types of cryotherapy, and the benefits that it can provide.
How does cryotherapy work?
The word cryotherapy is derived from two Greek words: “cryo”, which means cold, and “therapy”, which means to cure. It involves exposing part or all of the body to extremely cold temperatures in an effort to alleviate pain and promote healing.
So, how does it work? Well, exposure to extremely cold temperatures helps to decrease cellular metabolism and increase cellular survival. This promotes a decreased inflammation, reduces pain and spasms, promotes vasoconstriction, and even crystalizes the cytosol, which destroys the cells. Furthermore, cryotherapy boosts circulation and speeds up the healing process, alleviates pain, and reduces swelling.
It’s important to note that cryotherapy is different from cryosurgery, a surgical process that involves applying super-cold temperatures to damaged or diseased tissues to remove them. Typically, liquid nitrogen it used in this type of surgical approach, and it’s commonly used to remove skin growths, such as warts.
Types of Cryotherapy
There are several different types of cryotherapy. Some involve applying icy cold temperatures to a specific part of the body, while others involve exposing part or all of the body to subzero temperatures. The following are some of the different types of cryotherapy:
- Ice pack therapy. This type of cold treatment focuses on an injured part of the body; the ankle, the knee, or the shoulder, for example. This method is pretty straight forward and you’ve probably done it yourself. It involves applying an ice pack over the area of concern, and the heat from the injury would be absorbed by the ice pack. This form of cryotherapy is usually used to alleviate pain that is caused by minor injuries and it can also help to ease achy muscles. It’s also used in sports medicine, which involves applying ice packs to an area of concern before engaging in an activity; an ankle before running or a shoulder before lifting weights, for example. With this approach, the application of ice to the area should not exceed 20 minutes, as any longer can reduce balance. Instead, an application of 10 to 15 minutes is recommended.
- Cold water immersion. This method of cryotherapy involves immersing the body or part of the body in icy cold water. A bathtub or a bowl would be filled up with cold water and ice. The individual would then immerse their entire body or part of their body into the water; for instance, if you’re treating a sprained ankle, you would submerge your ankle into a bowl of icy cold water. This method should not be practiced for a prolonged period of time; a period of no more than 5 minutes is recommended, so as to avoid damage or even hypothermia.
- Whole body cryotherapy. This approach to cryotherapy, as implied, involves exposing the entire body to subzero temperatures. It was developed in the 1970s by a Japanese doctor who was looking for a natural way to treat patients who suffered from arthritis. The doctor found that the approach yielded highly effective results, he shared his findings with other doctors, and it took off. Whole body cryotherapy involves placing your whole body in a chamber, known as a cryo sauna (your head stays out of the chamber and remains in room temperature). A form of liquid nitrogen is used to rapidly fill the chamber with subzero temperatures, which can be as icy as -256 degrees F. The session only lasts for about 1 to 3 minutes, but does not exceed 5 minutes, otherwise hypothermia could occur. Gloves and booties are worn to prevent the hands, fingers, feet, and toes from being exposed to the frigid temperatures. As soon as your body is exposed to the cold, blood will travel from the extremities to the core of your body in order to protect the internal organs, which increases blood flow and oxygenation. It also triggers the production and release of the body’s natural pain killers, which are known as endorphins, and as a result, you’ll experience pain relief, reduced stress and anxiety, less muscle and joint pain, and skin conditions will even be alleviated. It can also increase your metabolic rate to support weight loss, will make you feel more energized, and will give your mood a boost, too. You’ll feel a tingling sensation for a while after your session, but it doesn’t take long to subside, and you can return to your regular routine post-whole body cryotherapy.
- Partial body cryotherapy. As you can probably guess, this method involves exposing part of the body to icy temperatures. A cryo sauna, a cylindrical chamber, is used to apply the cold temperatures to the area to be treated. It works very similarly to whole body cryotherapy, but of course, it only concentrates on a part of the body, like the legs or the trunk, as opposed to the whole body.
Looking for Cryo Near Me?
If you’re interested in learning more about cryotherapy or you’d like to schedule an appointment and give it a try yourself, give us a call today! We would be delighted to guide you through the process so you can experience the incredible benefits.