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Five Benefits of Whole-Body Cryotherapy

When you think of cryotherapy you may imagine entering a large, futuristic-looking chamber with white gases pouring lazily onto the floor, an experience only enjoyed by the auspicious ranks of elite athletes and top celebrities. But that is not the whole picture. Cryotherapy simply means “cold therapy.” So, any time cold is used as a form of treatment, the term “cryotherapy” can be used. Lately, you have probably been hearing cryotherapy being touted as a panacea, but is it, truly? 

Cryotherapy does have many benefits that range from reducing pain and inflammation to even enhancing your mood. Below are five benefits of cryotherapy, but first what is cryotherapy and how does it work?

What exactly is cryotherapy?

woman stepping out of a us cryotherapy whole-body chamber

Cryotherapy is the use of extreme cold on the skin for a couple of minutes to heal the body. Cryotherapy comes in many forms, whether that be entering a whole-body chamber or localizing the cold treatment on a certain part of your body. 

How does cryotherapy work?

Cryotherapy stimulates the nerves on your skin through extreme cold, triggering your central nervous system and, in turn, enhancing your circulation. 

Increased circulation allows your blood to move in and out of inflamed areas faster, accelerating the healing of injured areas.

Health professionals have begun using whole-body cryotherapy to relieve pain and inflammation from conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, and athletic injuries, according to Forbes.

Breaking it down further, multiple areas of your body react after entering the chamber. 

  • The hypothalamus releases endorphins and norepinephrine, which serve to block pain signals, boost your mood and energy, and work as an anti-inflammatory.  
  • Blood travels from the extremities to your vital organs.
  • As your skin rewarms, the blood, high in oxygen, nutrients, and chemicals, returns to sites of injury and inflammation for repair. 

Five benefits of whole-body cryotherapy

1. Reduces pain and provides quicker injury recovery

fit man and woman stretching in park

Any athlete or person who exercises is exceptionally prone to soreness and exercise-related injuries. Cryotherapy is able to help soreness and injuries in multiple ways.

You might have doubts about the validity of stepping into a futuristic-looking cold chamber and “magically” having some of your problems solved, understandably. But don’t worry, there is empirical evidence to back this popular craze up. 

A study published on PubMed Central found that alongside its therapeutic effects, whole-body cryotherapy has been shown to be a preventative strategy against the damaging effects of exercise-induced inflammation and soreness. The conclusion of the study found that pain, soreness, stress and post-exercise recovery is “very often improved compared to either the starting condition or the untreated matched group.” The subjects’ assessments stated their symptoms and pain had significantly improved, even when compared to other recovery strategies. Optimal results were yielded after 20-30 sessions. 

Another study published on PubMed Central found that trained runners showed fewer blood markers of inflammation after entering the cryotherapy chamber. The study followed a group of trained runners and put them through a 48-minute trail run on a treadmill. The workout was specifically designed to elicit muscle soreness and damage. 

After the workout, half of the runners underwent whole-body cryotherapy once a day for five days. The rest sat still for 30 minutes a day after their workout for those five days. Blood was drawn regularly throughout the experiment from both groups. 

From the first day onward, the runners who entered the chamber showed fewer blood markers of inflammation than the group who sat still. 

The study showed that by using the therapy, tired athletes could return to training sooner, said  François Bieuzena, a professor at the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance in Paris and lead author of the study. 

2. Reduces inflammation and tissue damage

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As previously mentioned, cryotherapy increases circulation, allowing oxygen and nutrient-enriched blood to move in and out of inflamed areas faster.

Fortunately, there is evidence to back up the claim cryotherapy reduces inflammation and tissue damage. 

A study published on PubMed Central found that alongside its therapeutic effects, whole-body cryotherapy has been shown to be a preventative strategy against the damaging effects of exercise-induced inflammation and soreness. The conclusion of the study found that pain, soreness, stress and post-exercise recovery is “very often improved compared to either the starting condition or the untreated matched group.” The subjects’ assessments stated their symptoms and pain had significantly improved, even when compared to other recovery strategies. Optimal results were yielded after 20-30 sessions. 

Another study published on PubMed Central found that trained runners showed fewer blood markers of inflammation after entering the cryotherapy chamber. The study followed a group of trained runners and put them through a 48-minute trail run on a treadmill. The workout was specifically designed to elicit muscle soreness and damage. 

After the workout, half of the runners underwent whole-body cryotherapy once a day for five days. The rest sat still for 30 minutes a day after their workout for those five days. Blood was drawn regularly throughout the experiment from both groups. 

From the first day onward, the runners who entered the chamber showed fewer blood markers of inflammation than the group who sat still. 

3. Enhances mood

woman smiling outdoors

Mental illnesses are increasingly common around the world. And while common, they are severely undertreated. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 1 in 5 adults are affected by an anxiety disorder in the United States and Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability of those aged 15 to 44.3. The National Alliance on Mental Illness found that a staggering 60 percent of American adults, and almost half of children ages 8-15, receive no treatment for their mental health diagnosis. 

A lack of treatment could be attributed to a number of things, the stigma that so often casts a shadow over mental health, limited disposable funds, a lack of access, insufficient knowledge about mental health in general, or the inability to recognize symptoms of mental illness, among a multitude of other possibilities.

However, whole-body cryotherapy is able to relieve some of the symptoms that accompany anxiety and depression. 

While there is not a quick, long-term fix for mental illnesses, cryotherapy can provide relief as soon as the minutes-long session is over. The cold in the whole-body cryotherapy chamber stimulates the body’s nervous system, triggering the release of beneficial biochemicals such as endorphins, adrenaline, and oxytocin, among others. The release of these anti-anxiety hormones will result in an improved mood, in turn reducing depression symptoms and lowering anxiety levels. 

A 2000 report found whole-body cryotherapy induced relaxation, mood elevation, memory enhancement, an improvement in vigor, a significant decrease in tension and fatigue, and a boost in energy levels. Another 2008 study found that whole-body cryotherapy reduced symptoms by at least 50 percent in about half of the participants with depression or anxiety. The participants were treated with 15 daily visits, for 2-3 minutes, with temperatures ranging between 110 and 160 degrees Celsius. A positive effect was observable after one week of treatment and improvements continued to be significant over the three-week treatment. The only significant difference between the study group and the control group was the level of education. While a significant decrease of at least 50 percent from the baseline severity of symptoms was observed in about half of the participants of the study group, only one case in the control group saw similar results.

The symptoms may have been reduced by the physiological hormonal responses triggered by cryotherapy, which includes the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and endorphins.

4. Improves energy and reduces fatigue

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The same chemicals being released to combat anxiety and depression symptoms can also give you an energy boost. After stepping out of the chamber you may feel a very euphoric feeling because the hormones released during the session will act as an energy and mood booster. 

After 10 sessions of 3-minute-long exposures, a study found whole-body cryotherapy caused an increase in maximal anaerobic power in males, meaning their energy and physical capacity increased. 

Additionally, another study found that whole-body cryotherapy sessions after exercise improves sleep quality and night heart rate variability the night of the session, which aids in reducing fatigue. The number of movements the night following a whole-body cryotherapy session was significantly reduced compared to the control group. 

5. Reduces skin condition symptoms

woman touching her smooth skin while looking in mirror

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition. Inflammation is reduced through whole-body cryotherapy through the freezing air stimulating the nerves on your skin, triggering your central nervous system and, in turn, enhancing your circulation.

A small 2008 study of people with eczema had the participants replace eczema medications with cryotherapy. Many of the participants were able to see improvements in their eczema symptoms. Cryotherapy improves antioxidant levels in your blood while simultaneously reducing inflammation, which could improve eczema symptoms.

Eczema is not the only skin condition cryotherapy may help, preliminary research shows psoriasis symptoms may improve through cryotherapy as well. A study published on JAMA Network found that out of the nine people treated in the study, over half had full-resolution of the plaque at the treated site, with only one person having no improvement. 

As there are currently no cures for eczema or psoriasis, the only thing you can do is treat your symptoms. Cryotherapy, after speaking to a doctor, is a safe treatment option that may bring much-needed relief to your skin conditions. 

How do I learn more?

two men shaking hands at US Cryotherapy

Xperience Fitness has partnered with US Cryotherapy, the industry leader in whole-body cryotherapy. Through US Cryotherapy, Xperience offers four cryotherapy options.

  • Whole-body cryotherapy: 2 to 3.5 minutes of full-body cold exposure that reduces pain, inflammation, and stress while rejuvenating your body, skin, and mind. Our whole-body cryotherapy chambers are nitrogen-free, free oxygenated air. 
  • Localized cryotherapy: Targets specific muscle areas or joints directly with cold air for 2 to 3 minutes to decrease pain and inflammation while improving circulation. 
  • Normatec: Uses compression therapy to increase circulation and moves fluid through the body to promote faster recovery. 
  • Theragun: An advanced massage device that breaks up muscle tightness, reduces soreness, and restores range of motion in as little as 30 seconds. 

Visit your local club for more information regarding cryotherapy. Cold is a powerful energy, use it to get your life back today.