08 May 2018

What is Cryotherapy and What Does it do for Your Body?

Ah yes, after a long, hard day, there’s nothing like a nice freezing bath in icy cold water, right? No, for most of us, that’s not the case – give us hot water and a bubble bath, thanks.

Yet, here we are entering what may be a new Ice Age in medical treatment. Cryotherapy – basically freezing the life out of injuries, inflammations and illnesses – is now receiving a lukewarm reception in some circles.

So let’s see if this rather extreme treatment stands up to closer scrutiny.

What are the benefits of cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is known to be a “freezing treatment turned piping-hot health trend” that promises to ease all our pains. Is this really true?

Let’s find out what cryotherapy does for your body.

Cryotherapy can help injury recovery

No huge surprises here. Ice packs have been applied to improve blood circulation since sport was invented. Basically, that’s cryotherapy in its most localised form and it can definitely reduce pain and help healing with muscle injuries.

We also hear of professional sportspeople leaping into an ice bath immediately after a game to speed up recovery. A lot of sportspeople in fact. It’s probably fair to say that this more common use of cryotherapy is already pretty much part of the mainstream and gaining wider acceptance.

Find out ways you can prevent sports injuries in our blog post on ‘5 Tips to Prevent Sports Injuries.’

Cryotherapy may help with anxiety and depression

Wouldn’t that be a nice breakthrough? The lesser the number of people on medication-based treatments to fix issues with anxiety and depression, the better.

A recent, admittedly, small study did have some very promising outcomes. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were reduced by more than half in a third of the study subjects.

Cryotherapy may reduce serious inflammation

It’s a big ‘may’ as most of the research has been done on rats and the less we think of rats in ice baths the better. That said some studies have shown promising results.

Chronic inflammation may exacerbate the chances of such illnesses as arthritis, diabetes, dementia and even cancer. If further studies prove that cryotherapy can reduce chronic inflammation and thus the risk of chronic disease, we should be all for it.

Cryotherapy may improve weight loss

But it probably doesn’t. Supporters of this claim point to the fact that severe cold forces the body to work harder to stay warm, thus increasing metabolism and burning calories. 

In theory that might make sense, but unbiased studies so far have been decidedly underwhelming.

Cryotherapy may reduce eczema

This study involved eczema sufferers who stopped their skin medications and tried cryotherapy. The results? Well, some saw improvements in their eczema. More research however, is still required.

Does Cryotherapy really work?

Small-sized studies with small pools of people do not constitute a breakthrough and cryotherapy requires larger, more comprehensive proof and more concrete facts to support a few highly promising signs.

So much of what we know or suspect about cryotherapy’s benefits are ‘maybe’s and ‘possiblys'. The current research needs to be taken to a higher level before cryotherapy can come in from the cold and become a legitimate addition to the medical toolbox.

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