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.
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