Cryotherapy Physical Benefits
Improvement for Rheumatic Diseases
Conditions that cause chronic pain in muscles and joints are known as rheumatic diseases. The most well-known of these is probably rheumatoid arthritis. When subjected to cryotherapy, researchers have discovered that patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience a significant reduction in pain, improvement in their mobility, and reduced functional impairment.
This results in overall improved well-being for these patients. Results have been shown to last as long as three months after cryotherapy ends (21).
When compared to cold pack application and localized cold air treatment, whole-body cryotherapy improved patient symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis significantly more than other types of cold treatment (22).
When compared to traditional rehabilitation, the effects of whole-body cryotherapy have been shown to improve fatigue, inflammation, and pain relief to comparable degrees (23). Therefore, when a cryotherapy is an option, it can improve patient recovery as well as or better than other methods traditionally used for rehabilitation and the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Cryotherapy can reduce the need for pain medications, improve the mental state of patients in pain, and enhance the overall well-being of patients using this therapeutic technique. When studied in patients with other types of rheumatic disorders, cryotherapy is equally successful in reducing pain and other negative symptoms. These benefits include enhanced joint mobility and reduction in pain that lasts up to two months after the final cryotherapy treatment.
Cryotherapy even holds promise for treating rare and debilitating disorders, such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS. This disease is arthritis of the spine, and it causes severe, chronic pain that can often be hard to live with. When patients with AS were given treatment in a cryogenic chamber, they showed significantly improved mobility and decreased disease activity overall (24).
As we learn more about whole-body cryotherapy, and its impact on rheumatic diseases and other disorders, cryogenic chambers may be used more frequently as a supplement to other prescribed treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
Prevention of Metabolic Diseases
Because of its potential to reduce oxidative stress within the body, plus its ability to lower inflammation, cryotherapy is currently being investigated as a possible treatment for metabolic diseases like Type 2 diabetes.
Because it has a positive influence on inflammation, cryotherapy can essentially mimic the effects of exercise, which is good for those with diabetes.
Studies have shown that both the presence of antioxidants and the levels of oxidative stress were influenced by cryotherapy in some patients, which means it holds promise for use as a treatment for these diseases (27).
Cryotherapy can even help defend against the negative effects of stress, which is an underlying cause of many of today’s diseases. By supporting the nervous system and promoting the release of norepinephrine, whole-body cryotherapy works in much the same way as exercise and has a positive influence on the cellular functions associated with inflammation.
Cryotherapy, therefore, has promise for treating many diseases that are caused or made worse by stress.
A Decrease in Tinnitus Symptoms
Tinnitus, which is also known as ‘ringing in the ears,’ is usually a symptom of some other medical condition, like an ear injury or loss of hearing.
When exposed to whole-body cryotherapy, patients with tinnitus have shown a decrease in the intensity of the ringing. In addition, cryotherapy can limit, in some cases, the degree to which hearing is lost or overall hearing damage (28).
Improvement of Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Induced by oxidative stress, multiple sclerosis, or MS, is known for its degeneration of neural networks and nerves by the immune system.
MS has many symptoms, the most common of which include fatigue, weakness in the muscles, painful muscle spasms, numbness, dizziness, and changes in mood. Because of its connection to oxidative stress, cryotherapy has been studied for its impact on MS symptoms.
Not only does whole-body cryotherapy reduce levels of oxidative stress in patients with MS, but it has also been shown to improve fatigue levels as well as functional status. In patients who had more fatigue, cryotherapy produced better results (29, 30).
Additional research shows MS patients were able to improve their duration of activity as well as their overall ability to exercise after treatments in the cryogenic chamber.
The results lasted for several months, especially for those with secondary-progressive MS, which gets progressively more debilitating and has little chance of recovery (31).
When considering treatments for diseases like MS, cryogenic therapies could offer significant improvement in the quality of life for patients. More research is needed in this area to determine the overall impact of whole-body cryotherapy on MS patients.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
If you have fibromyalgia, you are familiar with the increased pain in your bones and muscles, the fatigue, and the difficulty sleeping that are characteristic of this disease.
Patients with fibromyalgia have seen improvements in their symptoms using whole-body cryotherapy.
Patients with fibromyalgia report an improved quality of life when using cryotherapy, compared to those using traditional therapies (35). Results have even been shown to last for up to one month after the final cryogenic treatment (36).
Helps with Eczema
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, can sometimes be improved using whole-body cryotherapy. Some patients with eczema have reported improvement, and this is truer for women than for men.
Not all patients enjoyed improved skin appearance and water loss, though. A small percentage actually stopped treatment, due to worsening of their symptoms (37).
Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome
Cryotherapy has been tested as a possible treatment for restless legs syndrome, or RLS. This disorder of the nervous system creates an urge to move your legs, especially while sitting or lying down.
Because it interferes significantly with the ability to sleep, RLS is also considered to be a sleep disorder.
Symptoms of RLS include uncomfortable sensations in the legs, an irresistible urge to move your legs, and feelings of itchiness or pins and needles in your legs.
When patients with RLS were treated with whole-body and localized cryotherapy, and while both therapies improved symptoms, whole-body cryotherapy treatments showed more improvement in symptom reduction and overall quality of life (38).
Improved Heart Health
When examining the impact of whole-body cryotherapy on cardiac activity, cold therapy was seen to have a positive influence on both resting heart rate and cardiac output.
When measuring the amount of blood pumped per beat, otherwise known as stroke volume, and the activity of baroreceptors, which control blood pressure, cryotherapy has both an immediate and a long-term positive effect (39).
Reduction in Headaches
Whole-body cryotherapy often inspires ideas or is inspired by ideas from other areas of medical research. For example, those with severe migraines often experience relief when cold or ice packs are applied to the neck.
This reduces the expansion of blood vessels and restricts blood flow, which helps alleviate pain. This is an example of localized cryotherapy, and researchers are examining ways to use whole-body treatments for headaches and other types of pain disorders