Side Effects & Precautions of Cryotherapy

Cardiac Complications

The natural side effect of cryotherapy is to increase blood pressure and reduce heart rate. If you use cryotherapy consistently or repeatedly, this can cause a short-term rise in your blood pressure, even when not in the cryogenic chamber. If you have a heart condition, have high blood pressure, or take medications for your heart, talk with your doctor about the potential short- and long-term effects of cryotherapy on your heart.

We currently have limited information on the effects of extreme cold, like that used in cryotherapy, on the heart. For example, one individual experienced a tear in the main artery that pumps blood to the lower half of the body after 15 cryogenic chamber sessions (40). While this is an isolated case, without further evidence, it is difficult to know the effects of cryogenic temperatures on people with all types of cardiac issues.


Respiratory Complications

Whole-body cryotherapy can cause constriction in the airways, and you should use caution with repeated cryotherapy sessions.

In one study, otherwise healthy young men used whole-body treatments for three months and experienced a noticeable decrease in their respiration rates immediately following treatment; this reaction was more pronounced over time (41).

If you have asthma, COPD, or other respiratory issues, you may want to avoid repeated exposure to cryogenic treatments.


Precautions

Understanding the risks involved with cryotherapy can help you determine if this type of treatment is best for you. The majority of studies and reviews of the literature have concluded that there are few adverse effects related to whole-body cryotherapy, but because we lack sufficient data, it is difficult to know for sure.

There have been occasional deaths reported that are linked to cryotherapy. A small number of reports nationwide have surfaced claiming death or injury from whole-body cryotherapy sessions.

While these cases may not all be directly attributable to cryotherapy, it is important to know the facts regarding this form of treatment. There are certain medical conditions that may make whole-body cryotherapy unsafe.

If you suffer from any of the following medical disorders or diseases, you should not use cryotherapy treatments for any reason.

These contraindications include arrhythmia, a circulatory disorder, uncontrolled hypertension, Raynaud’s phenomenon (sometimes called white fingers), allergies to cold, a serious coronary disease, a serious pulmonary disease, or if you have a cold that is obstructing your ability to breathe.


Additional Precautions

Cryotherapy involves exposing your body to extremely cold air. This type of therapeutic treatment is used for a variety of purposes, including decreasing inflammation, destroying unwanted cells, improving your circulation, and promoting healing.

Whole-body cryotherapy treatments take place in a tube that encloses your whole body except for your head. In short sessions, usually less than five minutes, your body is exposed to a gas that has been cooled to extremely low temperatures.

There is mixed evidence to support the use of cryotherapy for specific medical problems, but many people who try this treatment report positive results. The most commonly-reported positive side effects include enhanced mood, reduced levels of pain and soreness, and faster recovery after exercising.

Other reported but not thoroughly studied results of cryotherapy treatments include help with tinnitus, multiple sclerosis, diseases caused by oxidative stress, rheumatic disorders, headaches, mental health problems, metabolic diseases, fibromyalgia, eczema, restless legs syndrome, fatigue, and even dementia.

More research is needed to understand fully the effects of cryogenic chambers and cryotherapy on various disorders and diseases. The literature on this treatment method is not robust and is oftentimes contradictory, so more clinical, empirical research is needed on the impact of cryotherapy on the human body over time.

In general, cryotherapy is extremely safe. In very rare instances, people have suffered from burns or frostbite, and even death has occurred.


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