Although it has been a current trend, many people may not know about cryotherapy in a chamber.
What is Cryotherapy?
There a few types of cryotherapy. In more commonly known versions, cryotherapy is a treatment for pain that utilizes “localized freezing temperatures to deaden an irritated nerve”. It can also be used to treat cancer (cryosurgery) and by dermatologists to treat skin cells that are abnormal. Cryotherapy could treat a variety of conditions caused by nerve entrapments or neuromas, such as intercostal neuralgia between the ribs or benign nerve growths. The side effects of this kind of cryotherapy include numbness, tingling, and irritation and redness of the skin, although these are temporary.1 Cryosurgery is designed to destroy tissue, and extreme cold (via liquid nitrogen) is applied to treat conditions such as skin tags, warts, moles, and solar keratosis. Sports medicine has a technique of applying cold to athletes before an activity. Ice is normally used after an injury, but if it is used for less than 10 minutes before activity, the “initial vasoconstriction, shunting all blood away from the body part, (is) followed by vasodilation”, where the blood flows to re-warm the area and performance is not decreased.2
Whole Body Cryotherapy
Another type of cryotherapy, called Whole Body Cryotherapy, WBC, is a current trend that uses a cryogenic chamber “as an alternative to cold water immersion or ice packs”. Patients enter the chamber for up to three minutes (similar to ice swimming) so that tissue is not destroyed. The chamber also uses liquid nitrogen, for a temperature of about -184 degrees to as low as -256 degrees. The patient wears gloves, socks, ear and mouth protection, and a bathing suit. These precautions are meant to protect against frostbite. The skin temperature drops to between 54 and 41 degrees, but “the core body temperature remains unchanged”. After the treatment, the body temperature may drop somewhat, but endorphins are released which can reduce pain.3 US Cryotherapy notes that they “enhance sports performance, aid with soft tissue recovery, and support better overall health”.4 WBC is being used to treat fibromyalgia and other conditions, but sports teams are also using it for post-game recovery.5 Some patients experience euphoria after treatment. The treatment can also lead to deeper sleep. Eduardo Bohorquez, who runs a cryotherapy centers, likens cryotherapy to “legal doping” for athletes, as it is promoted to “boost…energy levels” and “increases…neuro-muscular response”.6 Those with fibromyalgia might find their pain suppressed with cryotherapy.7 Cryotherapy is contraindicated in patients with hypertension, pregnancy, certain heart conditions (including arrhythmia and cardiovascular disease), uncontrolled seizures, anemia and bleeding disorders, infection, claustrophobia and cold allergy, kidney disease, and several other medical conditions.8
Learn about heat therapy.