Benefits of Cryotherapy
The primary goal for any cryotherapy session is to reduce your tissue temperature (3). Because your body reacts to all extreme changes in temperature when you reduce your core body temperature, you signal to your autonomic nervous system, which is in charge of automatic or unconscious functions.
This system triggers a rise in your blood pressure, increases your heart rate, and releases norepinephrine, which is a stress hormone and neurotransmitter (4). When you are very cold, your body automatically reduces blood flow by constricting blood vessels.Once you exit the cryogenic chamber, your vessels return to normal and expand, and your blood now has more anti-inflammatory proteins than before your session. This is good news for injured, healing, or inflamed areas in your body.
In tests using athletes, cryotherapy was shown to provide runners with more oxygen, lowering their heart rates and their perceived exertion during exercise (5). When cryotherapy is used in a localized manner to treat specific injuries, results include a higher pain tolerance and threshold (6). The scientific literature on cryotherapy includes evidence of improved recovery time from injury, lowered inflammation, and reduced pain in many subjects (7, 8).
While there is limited evidence to support all of the claims touted by cryotherapy proponents, many claims of health benefits have been substantiated by research over time.
The potential benefits of cryotherapy that are most often cited include:
• Lowered levels of inflammation
• Reduced pain
• Reduced muscle soreness
• Enhanced mood
• Improvement in recovery from trauma, impact, and exercise injuries
• Improved energy levels
• Enhanced weight loss and fat burning
• Improvement in symptoms related to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis
• Decreased symptoms of asthma
• Improvement of libido
While many note anecdotal evidence to substantiate the claims of cryotherapy’s benefits, little scientific evidence exists to support these claims overall. More research is needed to verify quantitatively and definitively that cryotherapy reduces symptoms such as soreness and pain (9). Results related to cryotherapy’s ability to improve recovery are similar to those achieved through rest alone.
There are few adverse effects reported from this type of therapy, and many do report improved mood and less fatigue, so while randomized clinical trials have not supported all claims, there is no harm in using cryotherapy. Below, we elaborate on the health benefits of whole-body cryotherapy according to the latest research, including the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving ones.
It is worth noting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate any use of cryotherapy.
The beneficial effects of cryotherapy are varied and many.And as we study this treatment option more, we are learning increasingly about the many ways cryotherapy can benefit your health, and be a treatment for specific problems.