Whole body cryotherapy is giving new meaning to the post-workout cooldown. Since it’s invention by a Japanese doctor in the 1970s, cryotherapy has become a very popular treatment for improving workout recovery time, sports performance, pain due to inflammation and more. Gone are the days of uncomfortable and dreaded ice baths; this three-minute treatment is quick, easy and exhilarating!
So, how does cryotherapy work? Your body is exposed to extreme temperatures ranging between -200° F and -240° F for up to a total of three minutes. Within these three minutes, the cold temperature jumpstarts a long list of physiological responses in your body. In an effort to protect itself, your body will trigger a “fight or flight” response to the cold. Your blood will rush to your core to protect vital organs, and with that your blood vessels and capillaries constrict. Due to the sudden constriction, your body seeks to regain homeostasis by expanding the blood vessels and capillaries up to four times their original size. This process is called vasodilation and it increases blood flow throughout the body, leading to improved circulation, increased oxygenation and enzyme activity and a quicker healing environment. The improved healing environment is also triggered by the body’s attempt to heat things back up by increasing the metabolic rate on a cellular level. White blood cells secrete anti-inflammatory cytokines (small proteins) that ultimately help to decrease pain.
A session of cryotherapy is fast and invigorating. First things first— safety. You step into the cryochamber wearing socks, fur-lined clogs, gloves and fur-lined mittens (and not much else) to protect those extremities. Once the machine is fired up, eh, cooled down, your body begins its three-minute journey into the icy venture that is cryotherapy. Enter: liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen vapor is pumped into the chamber throughout the treatment to keep the air around your body chilled. A medically trained cryo-technician keeps you company and in light spirits to pass the time and maintain that all of your vitals are good and the treatment runs smoothly. Without a doubt, the three minutes pass much quicker than expected and soon enough you’re back in a warm, fluffy robe and on to feeling incredible. It’s that easy.
Whole-body cryotherapy is making its way into the professional sports world with chilling success. Professional football teams are purchasing their own cryochambers in order to treat their players suffering from injuries or to speed up the recovery process after long training sessions. Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is rumored to chill out in his own home with the help of his personal cryosauna.
To most people, the thought of being exposed to temperatures pushing -240° F is daunting. Telling them to stand still in a cryochamber does not make the offer more appealing. What IS appealing is the long list of benefits that come along with the cold. There are three different branches that whole body cryotherapy can positively effect.
First of all, the athletic and fitness world is hugely impacted as this treatment is rendering the ice bath antiquated. Long-distance runners, for example, benefit from cryotherapy both before and after marathons to help soothe sore muscles and keep their energy boosted. The boost of energy comes from the high metabolic rate that is increased while warming the body back up. During this time, the body can burn up to 800 extra calories throughout the rest of the day. This can also help those who are looking to shed some pounds due to the usage of the body’s glucose storage during the treatment, which helps the body to achieve ketosis (burn fat) much quicker in an immediate workout following a cryotherapy session.
Medically, the benefits of cryotherapy can vastly aid those suffering from chronic pain and chronic injuries. The treatment’s ability to decrease whole body inflammation leads to decreased pain, edema, and muscle spasticity. Cryotherapy helps to improve muscle fatigue and postoperative recovery time. The body defensively responds to the treatment by releasing hormones such as the Beta-endorphin, adrenaline, and cortisol to help put one in a relaxed, euphoric state following the session. Additionally in men, studies have found that testosterone levels will increase. These endorphins can help to decrease anxiety, stress levels, and depression while improving sleep patterns and overall mood.
It’s been said, “If you look good, you feel good,” and cryotherapy offers aesthetic benefits as well. Signs of aging have both been found to be reduced using through cryotherapy. Collagen production is increased, which helps to keep the fountain of youth flowing. Studies have also shown improvement in overall skin, hair, and nail condition. Not to mention that 800-calorie burn mentioned earlier, how great is that?
Whole-body cryotherapy is safe to do daily, and one is recommended to start out with that level of consistency to achieve full results. The impact of the benefits is cumulative and it is important to track and assess how your body responds after each session and over a designated length of time. After multiple sessions, your body’s response to pain changes due to the cold’s ability to alter the perception of pain stimuli signals. For this reason, clients with chronic pain benefit more and more after each treatment they receive.
Grace Medical Aesthetics is the first to offer whole body cryotherapy to the state of Connecticut. We are thrilled to bring this new and exciting treatment to the disposal of athletes and as an alternative medicine to those suffering from chronic pain.