What is cryotherapy
Cryotherapy literally means "cold therapy." It is a technique in which the whole body or parts of it are exposed for a short time to an extremely low temperature.
Localized cryotherapy is applied in different ways – by placing ice packs, ice massage, cooling sprays, ice baths, etc. on certain areas of the body. Proponents of this type of therapy claim that it works in the same way as when ice is used to relieve swelling. [ref. 1]
Whole-body cryotherapy is the immersion of the body in a special chamber with extremely cold air or a bath filled with water and ice for a few minutes. The benefits of cryotherapy are felt even from one session. But the most effective is the regular conduct of therapy. [ref. 2]
Cryotherapy of the whole body is not a medical treatment and you do not need to have a doctor's prescription for its conduction. Capsules and baths for cryotherapy are available in large spa, wellness and fitness centers, as well as in specialized medical centers.
In places that offer cryotherapy, there are special tanks or chambers that cool to extremely low temperatures - from -120 to -180 degrees Celsius. Most tanks are shoulder-high, with the head usually remaining outside the tank at room temperature. In full-body therapy, it is good to wear a protective coating on the hands, feet and ears to protect them from frostbite. The duration of therapy is from 2 to 4 minutes.
Benefits of Cryotherapy
Observations and studies to date show that cryotherapy can have a positive impact on:
Reducing migraine symptoms
Reduces arthritic pain
Losing weight and boosting metabolism
Cryotherapy alone will not lead to weight loss, but it can aid the process. Cold causes the body to work harder to stay warm and maintain its normal temperature. A few minutes of cold can significantly speed up metabolism and improve the body's response to cold. [ref. 5]
Inflammation is one of the ways the immune system fights infection. Sometimes the immune system becomes overreactive. The result is chronic inflammation, which has been linked to health problems such as cancer, diabetes, depression, dementia and arthritis. Some studies have shown that cryotherapy can reduce inflammation. This type of therapy is often used by athletes to treat and relieve pain from pinched nerves, chronic pain, or even serious trauma.
Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis and other skin diseases
For depression and anxiety
The extremely low temperatures used in cryotherapy can trigger physiological and hormonal responses, such as the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and endorphins. This can have a positive effect on people who experience anxiety and depression. [ref. 6]
External tumors are usually treated by applying liquid nitrogen directly through a cotton swab or spray tool. After treatment, the frozen tissue turns into a scab and eventually heals. Patients with early-stage skin cancer, precancerous skin growths, and certain types of eye cancer may undergo this form of cryotherapy after referral by medical professionals.
Internal tumors are treated with a cryoprobe - a special tool that delivers liquid nitrogen to the tumor site through a small incision. During treatment, doctors monitor which cells are frozen by ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ensuring that healthy tissue in the treated area remains undamaged. Once cryotherapy is complete, the frozen cells are thawed and expelled naturally from the body. This type of destruction of cancer cells can be applied to:
- Bone cancerProstate
- cancer that has not spread
- Localised Kaposi sarcoma associated with AIDS
- Precancerous conditions of the cervix or breast
Prevention of dementia and Alzheimer's
Cryotherapy has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and may help fight the inflammatory and oxidative stress responses that occur in Alzheimer's disease. Research in this area is still small. [ref. 7]
Improve blood circulation
Improving blood circulation as an effect of cryotherapy is closely related to cell growth and optimal organ function. Increased circulation eliminates toxins from the body and, ultimately, detoxifies the blood and organs.
Improving the functioning of the immune system
Research has shown that cryotherapy can increase the amount of white blood cells. This allows our bodies to identify and attack foreign objects known to cause disease.
Risks of whole-body cryotherapy
Exposure to extreme cold and low temperatures can cause serious injuries from frostbite or rashes. Even with cryotherapy in a controlled environment, extreme cold can worsen health problems and conditions such as:
- High blood pressure;
- Cardiovascular diseases;
- Respiratory diseases;
- Impaired blood circulation;
- Allergic symptoms;
- Neuropathy of the feet;
- Diabetes and other conditions that affect the peripheral nervous system;
- Intolerance to cold;
- Cryoglobulinemia and cryofibrinogenemia;
- Raynaud's disease;
- Thromboembolic changes and inflammation in the venous system;
If you apply cryotherapy at home in the form of an ice bath at home or a local application of ice to a certain area of the body, you should not exceed the time of 15-20 minutes. With topical application, the ice should be wrapped in a towel to prevent skin damage.
And remember - cryotherapy should not be used longer than recommended.