Cryotherapy is also known as cold therapy. It involves exposing the body to low temperatures for several minutes. Therapists may carry out the treatment for a given area of the body or the entire body.
Several techniques of administering localized cryotherapy include probes, ice baths, coolant sprays, ice massage, and ice packs. Studies have revealed several health benefits associated with immersing the entire body in cold temperatures for some minutes.
For the whole-body cryotherapy, you will stand in a small enclosure surrounding your body, but with an opening at the top of your head. The temperature within the chamber will fall to about negative 200 to 300 Fahrenheit. You are expected to remain in this condition for about 2 – 4 minutes.
Studies indicate that the benefits may be observed even with a session of cryotherapy. However, a better outcome is associated with regular sessions.
Origin of Cryotherapy
The therapy has evolved to be effective in pain management. It is not only used in sports injuries but also for other types of muscle pain. In Ancient Egypt, Edwin Smith Papyrus discussed cold in managing inflammation arising from various kinds of traumas.
In 400 BC, Hippocrates applied cold to manage pain and swelling. In 1050 AD, monks of Anglo-Saxon employed cold as a local anesthetic.
Dr. James Arnott realized in 1845 that cryotherapy could effectively manage migraines and neuralgia. In other investigations, Dr. James Arnott noticed that some tumors shrank when in contact with cold.
After the above discoveries, newer expansion systems for cooling gases were developed, with John Dewar coming up with a vacuum flask in 1892 to handle liquefied gases.
The current cryotherapy began in 1978 in Japan when Dr. Yamaguchi managed different types of pain, including rheumatoid arthritis, using cold therapy. He employed short sessions on the skin surface.
Dr. Yamaguchi concluded that the low temperatures caused an immediate release of endorphins that minimized pain. After that, whole body cryotherapy became famous as a form of physical therapy.
The benefits associated with cryotherapy include:
Reduce Symptoms of Migraine
Cryotherapy alleviates migraine symptoms by numbing and cooling nerves in the neck area. A study that involved applying a neck wrap with two ice packs on the carotid arteries of patients who had migraines showed that it significantly reduced the symptoms.
The mechanism of action is unclear. However, it is believed that the ice cools the blood flowing through the intracranial vessels. The proximity of the carotid arteries to the skin surface makes the therapy possible because of accessibility.
Managing Skin Conditions
Everyone desires to have impeccable skin and avoid skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, and acne. Inflamed skin can be red, dry, sore, and itchy. It is so uncomfortable, and no one wants to go through it. Fortunately, cryotherapy quells the above symptoms and helps your skin to stay calm and fresher.
The therapy is quick, simple, and non-evasive. Unlike other forms of treatment, cryotherapy doesn’t entail any complex steps apart from stepping foot into the cooling chamber. It is effective in managing dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema.
Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by dry, itchy skin. Cryotherapy boosts antioxidant concentration in the blood leading to reduced inflammatory responses.
Besides, antioxidants help regenerate newer skin cells, allowing your skin to appear younger, fresher, and softer. The two forms of cryotherapy are effective in managing atopic dermatitis.
Although acne is common among teenagers, it also affects other ages. Cryotherapy helps in the fast healing of the pimples, which determines scarring and recovery from acne.
Reduces Arthritic Pain
The two forms of cryotherapy are effective in lowering arthritic pain. The therapy is well tolerated and gives room for more aggressive occupational and physiotherapies. It is a remarkable breakthrough in rehab facilities.
Apart from arthritic pain, cold therapy also minimizes skin pain which can be uncomfortable and alters your self-confidence. By cooling and calming inflammation on the skin, the associated pain also reduces.
Helps in Managing Low-Risk Tumor
Targeted, localized cryotherapy may be employed in cancer treatment. Cryosurgery freezes the cancer cells. It is promising in the management of prostate and breast cancer, although more studies are still necessary. In addition, physicians have employed cryotherapy in managing lung and kidney cancers for several years.
Managing Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Although more research is still required to confirm the effectiveness of the therapy in this, it is believed to lower risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It is thought to be effective because of the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties that it possesses. Alzheimer’s disease is associated with oxidative stress and inflammatory responses.
Managing Mood Disorders
The low temperatures in the whole-body therapy may induce a physiological hormonal response. It involves the release of endorphins, noradrenaline, and adrenaline.
These hormones may positively affect an individual who often experiences mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. A study to examine the effect of cryotherapy on mood disorders revealed that short-term sessions effectively lowered episodes of anxiety and depression.
Numbing of Nerve Irritation
For several years, athletes have employed cryotherapy in managing injuries because of its numbing property. The ultra-low temperatures will numb irritated nerves, and your doctor will treat the injured area by inserting a probe into nearby tissue. The therapy resolves acute injuries, pinched nerves, chronic pain, and neuromas.
More research is still taking place to identify other health benefits of cryotherapy. The latter will provide more treatment options for pain and inflammatory conditions.