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Cryotherapy Treatment – Use the targeted use of cold for therapeutic effect

woman admires the physical therapy of cryochamber with steaming ice

While cryotherapy treatment offers many practical benefits, there are some risks associated with it. In this post, discover some useful information about it that every therapist should know as a rule. We also know cryotherapy as cold therapy or ice treatment. This is an application that lowers body temperature at the tissue and cellular level in order to achieve therapeutic benefits. However, there are some cryotherapy side effects that you should also be aware of in order to protect your health.

Use cryotherapy treatment wisely

sportswoman with sportswear stands in front of a cryochamber with the door open

Sitting in a cold tank seems like a strange way to improve your health. However, the trend known by the name of cryotherapy treatment is growing in popularity. People claim that extreme cold can improve mental and physical health, and even extend life. At least that’s what part of science says. Research into cryotreatment is as new as the trend towards treatment itself. So doctors don’t understand all of the potential benefits and risks of the process. For this reason, in this article we look at some of the potential benefits of cryotherapy healing. We will also look at other facts that a person may need to know before opting for such low temperature physical therapy.

relax at -180 degrees in a cryochamber

Cryotherapy treatment uses the low temperatures at which you can freeze your body for a few minutes. There are a few potential benefits, but they’re not fully proven. Cold therapy can, however, be a safe alternative and prevention of many ailments, such as rheumatic diseases or chronic pain. The process itself can be a bit uncomfortable, especially for those who are not used to the cold.

Safety and expectations in cryotherapy treatment

apply cryotherapy specifically to the face

So the most popular form of cryotherapy is sitting in a cryochamber for 3-5 minutes. Some people even have facials with it. For them, the cold treatment is only applied to the face. Others use a cryotherapy wand to target specific areas, such as a painful joint. However, most of the time, most people use the term cryotherapy to refer to whole-body treatment. In most cases, this is part of non-medical therapy in a wellness or similar setting. However, doctors also use cryotherapy. For example, they can use the very low temperatures to treat warts, scars, or even cancer cells with freezing cryotherapy. Although initially uncomfortable, cryotherapy treatment tends to get better with each visit as the body adapts to the low temperatures mentioned above.

Doctor stands in the cryochamber laughing at low temperature with short sleeves

The process is generally safe, but it’s important to speak to a doctor before trying cryotherapy. Pregnant women, children, high blood pressure patients and those with heart disease should not take any risks. Cryotherapy treatment for more than a few minutes can also be fatal for some patients. A person is never allowed to fall asleep even during the manipulation and they should set a time limit for each session. This ensures that the procedure does not take longer than the recommended time.

Pain relief and muscle healing

Treat warts, scars and birthmarks with cryotherapy

Research may ultimately compromise other alleged benefits of cryotherapy. However, preliminary studies suggest that cryotherapy can provide the following benefits. Cryotherapy can help relieve muscle pain, as well as some joint and muscle diseases, such as arthritis. Cold treatment can also promote faster healing of sports injuries. Doctors have long recommended using ice packs on injured and sore muscles. This can increase blood circulation after the ice pack is removed to aid healing and pain relief.

treat certain areas of the body with ice as cryotherapy

A study published in 2000 found that cryotherapy provided temporary relief from the pain of the researched rheumatoid arthritis. Research also found that cold therapy using ice packs can reduce the harmful effects of intense exercise. Accordingly, people who used cryotherapy reported having less pain.

display shows the temperature for cryotherapy treatment in the cryochamber

Another study from 2017 also supports the cryotherapy benefits for relieving muscle pain and accelerating their healing. However, this study also found that cold water immersion can be more effective than the full body treatment. So not all studies support the positive role of cryotherapy in muscle healing. For example, the 2015 Cochrane Review researched muscle pain relief with four studies of cryotherapy and found no significant benefits.

Lose weight with cryotherapy

woman goes to the cryochamber for a full body cryotherapy treatment

Cryotherapy alone does not cause weight loss, but it can aid the process. In theory, cold forces the body to work harder to stay warm. Some cryotherapy providers claim that a few minutes of cold throughout the day can increase your metabolism. Ultimately, you don’t feel this cold because your metabolism has adjusted and increased in response to the low temperatures. A small study in 2016 found no significant changes in body composition after 10 sessions of cryotherapy. Because ice treatment helps with muscle pain, it may be easier to get back to a fitness regimen after an injury. This potential weight loss is mostly limited to those who cannot or do not want to move due to pain.

Inhibit inflammation with cryotherapy treatment

woman stands in a cryochamber for chronic pain and therapeutic effects

The inflammation is a challenge for our immune system, which has to fight against infection. Sometimes it is overly reactive, which can lead to autoimmune disorders. The result is chronic inflammation that is linked to health problems such as cancer, diabetes, depression, thyroid disease, dementia, and arthritis. Thus, reducing inflammation can also improve overall health and reduce the risk of numerous chronic diseases. Some studies suggest that cryotherapy can reduce some inflammation. Most of the research, however, has been done on rats. Further human studies are needed to confirm the data.

Prevent dementia and prevent cancer

man stands in an automated cryochamber for whole body cold therapy

If cryotherapy reduces inflammation, it could also reduce your risk of developing dementia. A 2012 paper associates cryotherapy with the ability to reduce inflammation. So the process may be able to halt stress and dementia, as well as mild cognitive impairment and other age-related forms of cognitive decline. Since whole-body cryotherapy can reduce inflammation, it could also lower your risk of cancer. To date, there is no evidence that cryotherapy can treat cancer once the disease has developed. However, medical cryotherapy is a well-established treatment for certain forms of the disease. Doctors can use cryotherapy to freeze cancer cells on the skin or cervix, and occasionally remove other types of cancer.

man stands in cryochamber for cryotherapy treatment at low temperature

So, when planning a cryotherapy treatment, there are a few questions you need to ask your doctor before opting for this type of physical therapy. To do this, you should note the following:

  • What are the goals of the treatment? What are the expected benefits this will bring to the patient?
  • What type of cryotherapy is financially realistic for the patient?
  • How many treatment sessions can the patient attend? What is the patient’s schedule for the current physiotherapy treatment (three times a week, twice a week, etc.)?
  • The treatment can be carried out as part of home training?
  • Does the patient have contraindications to cryotherapy??
  • Also, keep in mind that cryotherapy is most effective when used relatively continuously, in conjunction with physical therapy, home exercise programs, or during physical activity (sports rehabilitation). In general, 10 to 20 full body cryotherapy sessions are recommended for optimal therapeutic effect. However, the number of sessions depends on the severity of the condition (i.e. acute injury versus postoperative treatments versus chronic pain).

Local treatments against whole-body cold therapy

perform physiotherapy with cold treatment on the arm with a special device

Localized treatments are typically used for acute injury situations such as sprain / stretch, tendonitis, edema, post-operative pain, or fever. These include the use of ice or gel packs, ice massages or cryotherapy machines (for post-op surgery) for 20 to 30 minutes each, several times a day, especially after physiotherapy or training. Localized cold therapy affects the superficial tissue just 5 minutes after application. However, it takes about 20 to 25 minutes of topical application to reach deeper tissues. Whole body cryotherapy treatment is used for chronic illnesses or to reduce muscle pain and fatigue in athletes. As mentioned above, however, this is contraindicated in some cases, such as pregnancy.

How does a cryochamber work?

modern cryochamber cabin for cryotherapy with cold treatment and ice for freezing

Whole body cryotherapy involves exposing the entire body to an extremely coded environment for five (or less) minutes. Most cryo-chambers (also called “cryosauna” or “freezing lab”) use liquid nitrogen or an electrical system to reach temperatures from -70 to -100 ° C, which lowers the patient’s skin temperature in a matter of minutes. Of course, when therapists use liquid nitrogen to cool the chamber, patients do not come into direct contact with liquid nitrogen.

use room with nitrogen for cryotherapy

The intense cooling causes a number of physiological changes, such as vasoconstriction of blood from the limbs, which collects in the vital organs. In addition, by doing this, you reduce the inflammatory mediators, which accordingly leads to a strong reaction of the immune system. Finally, fight-or-flight hormones are released, which give the patient a “beneficial endorphin boost”.

Cryotherapy side effects

cryotherapy treatment at low temperatures with therapeutic effects and targeted use of cold

There are some side effects of cryotherapy treatment that therapists should be aware of:

  • While cryotherapy can reduce unwanted pain and nerve irritation, the tissues could occasionally be compromised with unusual sensations such as numbness or tingling.
  • Cryotherapy can cause redness and skin irritation. However, these effects are generally only temporary.
  • If a local cold pack or ice is left on the skin for too long, it can cause damage to the skin (including frostbite in extreme cases). Therefore, local cold therapy should never be used for more than 30 minutes and skin integrity should be monitored during treatment.
  • Whole body cryotherapy should not exceed five minutes (typical treatment sessions last two to three minutes). Whole body cryotherapy results in decreased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and decreased breathing. The patient’s vital signs and physical condition should be monitored before, during, and after treatment. The oxygen level in the chamber should also be checked.
  • The patient should ensure that all clothing and skin are completely dry when stepping into a cryotherapy chamber. Metal or jewelry should also be removed. Finally, sensitive parts of the body should be covered with a face mask, earmuffs, gloves and socks or slippers. Skin burns or frostbite can occur if a patient does not follow proper instructions when entering a cryochamber.

Cryotherapy contraindications

make an affirmative gesture from the cryochamber with your fingers

Cold therapy, especially whole-body cryotherapy, should be avoided in the following cases:

  • Any respiratory disease
  • A history of heart attack in the past six months
  • high blood pressure
  • Unstable states of angina pectoris
  • Cardiovascular disease or arrhythmias
  • Circulatory disorders such as peripheral arterial or venous disease
  • Anemia tumors
  • History of stroke or hemorrhage in the brain
  • History of seizures
  • Raynaud’s Syndrome
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Acute or chronic kidney disease
  • Metal implants or pacemakers
  • Pediatric patients (younger than 18 years)