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What is Cryotherapy?

A new trend of the last few years is cryotherapy.

But what exactly is cryotherapy? How it did evolve from its beginning? What are the benefits? Are there any risks?

So, the definition of cryotherapy comprehends any treatment which includes using freezing or near freezing temperature on specific body parts or the whole body. Sounds more painful than anything, I know. But there are a lot of people doing it and the list of benefits just keep increasing. Its analgesic and anti-edema properties have been known since the times of Avicenna and Hippocrates.

There are different forms of cryotherapy but the most popular one is to just sit in a cryotherapy booth for three to five minutes. Some people just do just facials, which involves applying the cold therapy just on the face. It is a non-medical treatment, but if you are unsure or you have any medical issues it’s always best to speak you you GP or doctor before trying it. So, cryotherapy involves a quick decrease of the temperature with a consequent vasoconstriction (when the diameter of vessel of your body becomes “smaller”, with a consequence of a slight pressure increase, in fact, if you feel faint some suggestions are to put ice cubes on your wrists or putting your wrists under cold water. This is to increase your pressure via vasoconstriction.) Therefore, if you have had heart/high blood pressure problems, it is better to speak to your GP/doctor before thinking of cryotherapy.

Moreover, having a cryotherapy treatment for more than few minutes could be fatal, therefore it is pivotal to be well informed before starting any session.

What are the immediate benefits?

Depending on the body “part” you are treating, the benefits are many and the evidence of the positive effect of cryotherapy are constantly growing. For example, athletes use it for treating muscle pain and to speed up recovery from some injuries. Many people use it to boost their metabolism and slow down ageing. It’s supposed to give a boost to your metabolism because your body needs to maintain a constant temperature, therefore, in order to keep you warm during the few minutes of the cryo-session, you burn a lot of energy and you also regulate better leptin which is an hormone linked to the hunger sensation (Leptin is a hormone made by adipose cells and the small intestine that regulates energy balance by inhibiting hunger). Though, some experts make the point of the adaptation mechanism; if cryotherapy is used in a methodical and consistent way, your body will adapt to it, burning less energy to keep you warm, therefore it will not be as effective after a certain amount of time.

Cryotherapy is also known as well for its effect in slowing down inflammation; in fact, it is used and it has been used for a long time, by athletes to speed up recovery time. It also improves muscle fatigue or delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS). It plays a good role in reducing edema because it has a vaso-constriction effect therefore reducing the edema. Another use for cryotherapy is skin rejuvenation and also, it plays a good role in endorphin secretion giving a mood boost. It could be a good help in managing menopausal symptoms, in fact, whole body cryotherapy influences both the psychological and the physical sphere of a person. By means of exposure to cold air, we influence hormone secretion and alleviate the effects of menopause symptoms.

By influencing the endocrine system, fatigue is diminished, physical performance is enhanced and tolerance of physical activity is increased.

Are there any risks?

In general, there are not a lot of risks associated with cryotherapy. Of course, it really should be a certified person doing this treatment. However, there are some health conditions that don’t work so well with cryotherapy treatments. So, if you suffer from one of the following conditions listed below you should first get advice from a medical professional before trying any type of cryotherapy.

  • High blood pressure 
  • Unstable angina pectoris 
  • Cardiovascular disease or arrhythmias 
  • Circulatory disorders like peripheral arterial or venous disease (DVT) 
  • History of stroke or cerebral haemorrhage 
  • History of seizures 
  • Acute or chronic kidney disease 
  • Metal implants or pacemakers 

So, in general, the benefits of using cryotherapy are great and it is also something that could be done as a long-term treatment, therefore, why not try it?

Some recent findings explore the possibilities of using cryotherapy to rejuvenate the Vagina. We will go through these findings in another article.

Author Dr Ornella Cappellari

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