The Frozen Healer - Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is a trend with a cult following in the recovery, wellness, and beauty industries. It can be used in combination with light therapy for better results. You may have heard people talking about it or seen celebrities or athletes posting themselves coming out of icy cold chambers on social media, but what is Cryotherapy? Why is everyone talking about it?
In its most basic form, Cryotherapy is simply the use of cold temperatures to heal the body. Using the cold to help our bodies recover from injury, inflammation, soreness, or relaxation has been used since the beginning. Putting ice on a wound or bruise, jumping in a cold lake, or taking an ice bath are basic cryotherapy forms. These methods cause stagnant blood to start moving again, promoting new blood flow, which brings healing. It is a fundamental, well-understood principle that has been widely accepted and used as a means of after the fact recovery but can be quite uncomfortable, inconvenient, and extremely inefficient compared to modern-day cryotherapy through the use of cryotherapy chambers.
Day by day
Modern-day cryotherapy lends from past cold modalities to provide a much more comfortable, convenient, and effective recovery through cryotherapy chambers. Cryotherapy chambers provide a quick, 2–3 minute private session of whole-body exposure to shallow temperatures in a dry, contained, breathable air environment. Add in some music, light therapy, and awesome fog from the cold, and it becomes a fun experience that completely distracts from how cold you just got!
The goal of true whole body cryotherapy is to expose as much skin as possible to temperatures of -166F or below for a short period of time (2–3 minutes) to create a drop in the external skin temperature of 30–40 degrees. The best way to measure this is to use an infrared temperature device before and after the session on the upper arm's back, measuring the two temperature readings' delta.
Effects of Cryotherapy
Blood rushing to the core is our body’s natural way of protecting our core organs from extreme cold. When exposed to freezing temperatures, blood rushes from our extremities to our core, creating a systemic response throughout the body that produces many benefits. Cold promotes increased blood flow, bringing fresh, oxygenated blood full of white blood cells to the body's areas that need it. Cryotherapy amplifies these positive effects and adds many more incredible benefits by activating the vagus nerve and causing vasoconstriction and vasodilation. The vagus nerve is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions [NCBI]. The vagus nerve is activated by cold on the back of the neck and touches every major organ in the body.
Whole Body Cryotherapy is not just for extreme athletes or those with present injuries, either. The best practice is for healthy, normal adults (minors with doctors) to regularly practice whole body cryotherapy 3–5 times per week. It is important to maintain a constant cryotherapy regimen and not just use it when you feel you need it or are injured. It is a continual recovery modality that helps the body stay healthy and even resist injuries and illness.