Cryotherapy — where the body is exposed to extreme cold therapy treatments for several minutes — has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially with athletes and movie stars. But what are the benefits, and are the treatments effective or just a lot of hype?
Getting Icy Cold to Get Healthy?
Proponents of the cold therapy treatments claim that exposing the body to extremely cold air for three to five minutes per session can reap a slew of health benefits over time. Cryotherapy can be administered locally — like on the face for skin tightening effects, and on specific areas recovering from injury. Full body treatments are also a popular option.
While cryotherapy literally means cold therapy, and treatments can be as simple as putting an ice pack on an injured knee, trendy whole body cryotherapy (WBC) treatments involve standing in a cryotherapy booth for a few minutes (treatments longer than five minutes are not recommended), while being blasted with super cold air (think: negative 200 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit). And while standing in a blast of super-cold liquid nitrogen might not sound like a whole lot of fun, enthusiasts report some remarkable benefits.
Unusual Treatment for Migraines and More
According to Medical News Today, preliminary studies show that cryotherapy treatments may help treat migraines by numbing the nerves in the neck. Treatments may also help soothe chronic pain, speed up healing and relieve muscle pain, reduce inflammation, and might also help address mental health conditions linked to inflammation — like some forms of depression and anxiety. Medical cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery or cryoablation, also uses extreme cold to kill off cancerous cells on the skin or cervix. Anecdotal reports claim that cryotherapy might also aid in weight loss by increasing the body’s metabolism. And given that cryotherapy is an effective way to address sports and fitness-related injuries, it may help people get back to fitness routines more quickly by aiding recovery — thereby helping to keep weight loss goals on track.
While more studies are needed to determine how effective cryotherapy is for treating various health conditions, some initial research combined with anecdotal evidence looks pretty promising. And it’s not likely that the popularity of the super cold treatments will diminish any time soon. If you do decide to try a cryofacial or full body treatment, make sure to do a bit of research to find a reputable cryotherapy center. Physical therapists, spas, and certain medical centers often offer the treatments, and sessions generally average out at about 70 bucks each, depending on where you live.
It’s important to note that while whole-body cryotherapy treatments are considered safe within the recommended guidelines, there are some medical conditions that might not be the best fit for extreme cold treatments. Cryotherapy is not usually recommended for those with heart conditions like an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), angina, or coronary heart disease (CHD). Other contraindications include open wounds from surgery or injury, high blood pressure, and certain nerve conditions. If you do have any pre-existing medical issues, it’s not a bad idea to first check in with your medical care provider to see if cryotherapy sessions are safe for you.
Written by Carolyn de Lorenzo
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