What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is an extreme-cold treatment that may speed recovery, reduce injuries, increase energy and improve sleep. First developed in Japan, the therapy arrived in Europe in the 80s. In Poland, it is used to treat many conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, sleep disorders and depression.
The use of cold in medicine has a long history, from freezing warts and killing cancer cells, to slowing metabolic processes during trauma surgery. WBC takes place in sauna-style, walk-in chambers, with sessions normally lasting just two or three minutes. Those using liquid nitrogen to cool the air inside them can get down as low as -160C.
What types of cryotherapy are there?
Although we are mainly discussing Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) there are several types of cryotherapy that can be used;
· Ice packs
· Ice sprays
· Ice baths
· Partial body cryotherapy (PBC)
Each type can be used in different circumstances and carry its own benefits, for instance an ice pack to a painful area can be done at home without any special equipment.
How is Cryotherapy used for injury and recovery?
While research is limited into the actual effects of cryotherapy, it is thought to cause vasoconstriction to blood vessels, which in turn reduces blood flow to the extremities, which reduces inflammation around soft-tissue injuries, stopping them progressing. The release of adrenalin relieves pain and generates the feelings of relaxation and rejuvenation. Cryotherapy activates the body’s “fight or flight” mechanisms, driving extra energy to muscles and narrowing blood vessels so that fewer inflammation-causing white blood cells reach injuries.
When to use WBC and should I include it into my injury or training recovery?
Cryotherapy is generally most effective post-surgery or in very acute onset or chronic pain patients to help reduce pain and inflammation. Although it’s unclear if cryotherapy has any effect on muscle soreness or if affective at speeding up recovery time, it is still a widely used post training and competition in many competitions by athletes and sports clubs.
Although research is not in its favour, many people are adamant WBC works at relieving their aches and pains and speeding up their recovery. Therefore if choosing any form of Cryotherapy, its best to try and see how your body responds.