Whole Body Cryotherapy is an interesting topic for most medical professionals. Most don’t know what to think of it because there haven’t been large scale studies performed on its efficacy, however, most of the small studies that have been done DO show improvement in pain, inflammation, metabolism and even mood disorders. And the patient reviews are astounding. Most patients who received cryo for sports injuries, autoimmune conditions and recovery phases felt that it was an essential part of their treatment. If you guys know me, I believe in the value of patient testimonials along with science and art in medicine.
So, what is Cryotherapy Exactly?
It is basically standing in cylindrical chamber and freezing your whole body at -250 degrees Fahrenheit in a liquid nitrogen chamber for 2-3 minutes. Well, I decided to try it for myself. Minutes after getting a fancy robe, some slippers and gloves to step into a sterile, ice cold chamber, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into! The whole procedure lasts no more than 3 minutes total, as exposing the body to such extreme temperatures can be dangerous if prolonged. Liquid nitrogen is used, so although its cold, it is tolerable. The internal organs are protected and stay warm with a restricted time frame. It’s also super important that you are given slippers and a dry and clean pair of socks. Why? Any dampness can result in frostbite or severe burns as the wet material will instantly freeze and adhere to the body.
Cryotherapy has been used for years in other countries, but has just become popular in the United States in the last decade. It was created by the Japanese in the 1970s, however it was the Polish who embraced the protocol for chronic pain. Even today, many of the studies on cryo have come from Polish researchers.
What are the Purported Benefits of Cryotherapy?
I always try my natural remedies or other health fads myself first. I do this because I believe personal experience is necessary and many others can often relate to us if we care to share our story!
I must say that I HATE the cold and so I was dreading this experience almost as much as a Polar Bear plunge, but it was way easier! Not only is the cold tolerable and short lived, but I felt AMAZING while in the cyro chamber! You immediately get a euphoric feeling, followed by a surprising amount of energy that lasts long after the session is over. Your skin is tingling and numb, but you really don’t mind. That doesn’t stop you from dancing in circles and jumping up and down in place to attempt to warm yourself! You really feel a bit ridiculous in the chamber with others’ watching.
All of it was was easier for me than taking a cold shower! I slept soundly that night too which is a bit unusual.
How does it work? Vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels during extremely cold temperatures, redirects blood from the surface of the skin, to the core to protect our body temperatures. Once the session is over and we step out into room temperature, the blood vessels dilate, and important organs like our liver, heart and even brain receive a rush of oxygenated blood. A recent medical conference I attended called for cryotherapy as treatment for brain inflammation that is the underlying cause of autism, depression, anxiety and ADHD. Hormones also flood the bloodstream during periods of stress and this has also shown to be beneficial for anyone suffering from excess stress, insomnia, mood disorders and adrenal fatigue.
It is well known and proven with scientific studies that ice packs and localized cryo can help pain, inflammation and therefore, many autoimmune conditions. Proponents of cryo state that its helped aging and that it tightens the skin, reduces cellulite and packs a powerful punch against eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions.
Cyro works on pain and inflammation by slowing down the firing of pain receptors due to the extreme cold. This is postulated to be the cause of improved pain sensations. Not to mention, when you’re freezing, you’re distracted from the pain body. All of this helps patients with chronic pain cope better.
But what does science say?
Scientific Evidence versus Patient Testimonials
Lebron James popularized cryotherapy when he promoted it for athletes and injuries. In fact, the Olympic Rehabilitation Center in Poland uses the deep freeze for its athletes and remarkably, some of them have had a 10% increase in peak performance after the session! The benefits of cryotherapy
But if you venture online to read up on cyro, you’ll find a lot of claims made by spas or cryotherapy centers on what exactly cryo can do for the body. Lets investigate what scientific evidence there is on full body cryotherapy.
- Pain: Cryo can help with inflammation/pain/injuries-many sites tout the physical and improved pain benefits of cryo. There is no shortage of cyro fans either, that can’t say enough about how it helped their arthritis, their fibromyalgia, their frozen shoulder or their plantar fasciitis. Scientific studies do show benefit for rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain and inflammation. This makes sense as it does have a mobilization effect on the immune system. One study by Lubkowska has reported a significant increase in white blood cells (immune cells) after 10-20 sessions of cryo in healthy men, systematically accompanied with an increase in anti inflammatory cytokines! This makes scientific sense as you are shocking the body, causing the immune system to be tipped off and alert as well. It seems whole body cryo may be an option for sports injuries for these reasons too!
- Anxiety/Depression/Mood Disorders: When I went to my most recent medical conference, one of the speakers spoke about how ADHD, anxiety, depression and even autism are caused in a large part, by brain inflammation and not chemical imbalances. He listed not only cannabinoids, and low dose naltrexone to help with brain inflammation, but cryotherapy as well. When you review the studies, it seems cryo may have the MOST promise in this area! In one study in 2007,depressed patients were given standard cryo for 3 weeks. Both the study and control groups were given standard psychopharmacological treatment as well. Hamilton’s scale of depression and anxiety were used with a life satisfaction scale. The results showed a significantly larger improvement in depression and anxiety and increased life satisfaction. Another study replicated these results, showing that after 3 weeks, 34.6% of the patients getting cryo with depression and 46.2% of patients with anxiety had improved from baseline.
- Anti-aging benefits: You’ll also see websites boasting the skin tightening, cellulite reducing and anti aging benefits of cryotherapy. Some claim increased collagen production, others say it reduces inflammation, which is one of the causes of aging. “The whole idea of hot and cold is removing the toxins and allowing blood that doesn’t have those toxins or those inflammatory components into that area,” says Dr Jennifer Solomon, a sports medicine physiatrist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “So the claim of having health benefits or skin benefits to that is the washing away of the bad blood and renewing it with good, vital blood.” Unfortunately, there haven’t been any large scale studies that prove cryo is an effective anti aging tool, but remember I still find patient testimonials vital! Many people and even celebrities use it for skin rejuvenation and Proponents say they can see results immediately, unlike Botox which takes up to four days. AND you’re not putting any foreign substances into the body!
- Weight Loss: Ok ok lets be honest, nothing but clean eating and healthful living is really going to achieve longterm weight loss goals. However, some proponents of cryo swear by its ability to whittle their waists. Some claim it burns 800 calories in 3 minutes! Whaa? What does science say? Again there aren’t too many studies grounded in scientific credibility sadly. Some smaller studies have shown that freezing the body with subzero temperatures can raise metabolic rate as your body has to work harder to keep you warm. Other studies found that the results acclimate with repeated uses of cryotherapy and that more studies are needed for confirmation. Personally, cryo boosted my mood and gave me lots of energy, but I’ll stick with green juices and veggies for guaranteed weight loss.
To Freeze or Not To Freeze? That is the Question.
Of course, I want you guys to be your own best doctors by educating yourselves and doing what feels healthy in your own skin. No one can tell you what is best for you. I suggest trying cryotherapy for yourself and seeing how you feel afterwards. I know I will be back; in fact, I bought a package. I had bruises on my thighs from the Fascia Blaster (removes fat and cellulite effectively) which have nearly completely faded after one session in whole body cryotherapy. www.fasciablaster.com
I felt amazing afterwards and I hope you do too!
You are learning to become your own best doctor!
Dr. Jess (MD)
Dr. Jess (Dr. Jessica Peatross) is a western trained medical doctor who began her journey into healing in 2009.
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