Cryotherapy is a treatment which includes exposure to near-freezing or freezing temperatures. Proponents of this procedure say that receiving time in extremely cold environments can improve a person’s physical or mental health. There are even claims that regular procedures can help to prolong your life.
The idea of sitting in a cold tank might seem like an unusual journey toward better health, but it is a trend that is growing because people do experience tangible benefits from it. There is some science to suggest that this process is useful as well, since we already use ice to help reduce swelling and inflammation after an injury. Receiving exposure to the extreme cold could provide a similar result to the entire body.
Because this trend is still rather new, some of the potential benefits that people discuss with cryotherapy are not yet proven. It could be a safe alternative to consider if other preventative actions or treatment are not working for some conditions. It can also be an unpleasant experience since not everyone is used to the cold.
List of the Pros of Cryotherapy
1. Cryotherapy procedures do not take long to complete.
Cryotherapy is an option that takes about 2-3 minutes to complete. Your body receives exposure to very cold temperatures, with the goal to reduce inflammation and potentially repair damaged body tissues. Liquid nitrogen is sprayed into the air around you, rapidly decreasing the ambient temperature that surrounds your body. Think of this procedure as an ice bath, but one that makes you feel much colder, much faster.
You will need some time to recover after the procedure because of the impact that cold temperatures have on the body, but it is something that you can choose to complete over your lunch break if you wish.
2. It can improve circulation to the critical parts of the body.
The theory behind cryotherapy procedures is that you will receive a surge of blood to your organs and critical systems in a good way because the extreme cold triggers a survival response. Once you step out of the chamber, then the blood rushes back to your extremities because your body is no longer in “danger.” This process creates a surge of endorphins that can make you feel much better afterward. When performed correctly, it is not harmful whatsoever.
You may wish to avoid having caffeine before cryotherapy to reduce the “rush” effect on the body. Anyone who smokes or vapes would want to avoid those activities as well because of their stimulating effect.
3. You might experience a reduction in fat with repetitive treatments.
Because your body expends energy as it tries to stay warm during the exposure to the cold, your time in cryotherapy can help you to start eliminating unwanted fat, reduce cellulite, and even increase the tightness of your skin to reduce wrinkles or other forms of flaccidity. You will not have all of your fat magically melt away in a couple of sessions, but it can be a helpful tool to use when changes to your diet and exercise habits are not producing the results you want. Make sure to speak with your doctor about this option before having a session to ensure that you don’t accidentally make a health problem worse.
If you have a BMI over 40, then it may be necessary to lose some weight before trying this treatment option. You cannot have any exposed skin touch the sides of the cabin or tank where the cryotherapy takes place.
4. Cryotherapy can help to reduce or eliminate some skin conditions.
When your skin receives exposure to temperatures that go beyond the normal with regards to coldness, then the maladies or conditions that typically thrive no longer have an environment suitable to their needs. Whether you use the cabin formula for this procedure or use shots of the liquid nitrogen to work on specific areas, you can eliminate viral warts, moles with precancerous cells, and even freckles thanks to this technology. This treatment produces a burning sensation because it is freezing and destroying any abnormal cells which are present without affecting your healthy tissue.
5. It is useful in the treatment of viral lesions on the foot.
If you have a painful lesion on your foot, then you might wish to talk with your podiatrist about the pros and cons of cryotherapy. Items such as papillomas can receive a full treatment in just three sessions – and sometimes less. The process is far from comfortable for those who go through it, but it is typically effective. Some oncologists will use this option as well because some skin cancers can be destroyed through the application of atomized liquid nitrogen.
Because this option is a targeted treatment option, you can benefit from it at almost any facility. Some podiatrists may even offer it as part of their outpatient services. You will want to speak with your provider first to see if this procedure might be covered by your insurance.
List of the Cons of Cryotherapy
1. You must have your skin be completely dry for this procedure to work.
When you go in for your first cryotherapy session, then your provider will instruct you to strip down to your underwear. Then you must put on a pair of gloves, some socks, and shoes that look a bit like slippers. These items will protect your extremities from the extreme cold that you’re going to experience. A towel should be provided to you as well because you cannot have any sweat on your skin when going into the chamber. Liquids will freeze quickly in that environment, which could lead to an extensive injury.
2. Your skin can get so cold that it will feel like it is burning.
When you are in the chamber, the technician will usually encourage you to move around to stay distracted from the cold. There are conversations, running in place, or even meditation that can help you to make it to the 3-minute mark. When you’re first starting out with cryotherapy, even two minutes can feel like an eternity. Your skin can also get so cold during this process that it will feel like it is on fire. If you struggle in an environment where you will be uncomfortable, then this option is probably not right for you.
3. The chill after a cryotherapy session can last for 30+ minutes.
Even though you receive exposure to extreme cold with cryotherapy for 180 seconds or less, the chill that you experience can last for half-an-hour or more afterward. You might feel energized for the rest of the day, with enhanced feelings of wellness occurring because of the surge of endorphins that happens. Some people feel very tired after going through this procedure because they are used to falling asleep in the cold. You might experience an intense focus or could succumb to the idea of a nap. There’s no real way to tell unless you go through with the procedure.
4. There are no scientifically proven benefits.
The reality of cryotherapy is that we really don’t know if the extreme cold is better than something that is closer to freezing temperatures. Athletes often soak in ice baths to relieve pain and inflammation, and targeted cryotherapy on a specific joint or area of the body with ice massage offers benefits. Going to a temperature well below zero offers the potential to treat various pathologies, provide a placebo effect, or just increase your risk of experiencing frost bite. The only data that we currently have with this procedure comes from personal stories of using it, which means we must take all of the positives and negatives for what they are.
5. Cryotherapy will raise your blood pressure.
If you have normal blood pressure levels, then spending time in cryotherapy will feel like you just took a couple shots of espresso. The surge in energy that you experience can help you get through the day without any artificial stimulants. Because of this outcome, there are some specific situations where this procedure is not a good idea. Anyone who has heart disease, high blood pressure, an autoimmune disease, rheumatic issues, diabetes, or sensitive skin should avoid it whenever possible.
6. The cost of cryotherapy can be prohibitive for some people.
You will spend about $100 per session if you pursue cryotherapy in the United States. The expense can be a little higher in the larger metropolitan centers like New York City or Los Angeles. You can also find providers offering it for as little as $60 in rural areas or in the Midwest. Although it can provide help with the recovery process after an intense training session or a tough game, it may not be worth the expense. You’ll only save 50% of the time needed for recovery when choosing this option over an ice bath.
7. It could be fatal under specific circumstances.
Chelsea Ake-Salvacion worked in this industry, providing cryotherapy treatments throughout the day with her salon. In October 2015, she decided to use her chamber without assistance to recover after a long day at work. That would be her last decision, as her staff came in the next morning to find her body completely frozen. Local media reported that the procedure had caused her to freeze to death, although the Clark County Coroner reported that she had actually suffocated because of the low oxygen levels caused by the gas produced by the liquid nitrogen.
When you decide to pursue a cryotherapy session, then you must ensure that you take every precaution possible to protect yourself. Follow all of the instructions given by the technician, especially to keep your head out of the smoke. Then stop it whenever you feel uncomfortable.
8. This procedure is not approved by the FDA in the United States.
Although some people say that cryotherapy has helped them in numerous ways, the FDA would disagree with the idea of calling this procedure a treatment. There is no evidence that suggests it is helpful for the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, migraines, fibromyalgia, or chronic pain. Although targeted sessions (not whole-body cryotherapy) provide specific results that have clinical backing, there is nothing in the medical data to suggest that it is helpful in any way. If the only benefit is an endorphin rush, then there are better and safer ways to accomplish that outcome.
9. You may not have access to a cryotherapy salon or provider.
Cryotherapy providers are usually found in large metropolitan areas. If you live somewhere like Seattle, Chicago, or San Francisco, then you should be able to find someone who is within a few minutes of your home or office. When you live in a smaller community, then your access to this treatment option will be severely restricted. It is not unusual to live more than 100 miles away from the closest provider. In this situation, your best option might be to use targeted cryotherapy instead. Many physical therapists will use this treatment to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain in targeted areas of the body instead.
10. If you are a larger person, then this treatment option may not be possible.
When you receive a whole-body cryotherapy session, then you will stand within a chamber or cabin that surrounds you with the gas from the liquid nitrogen used to create cold temperatures. If your body touches the side of the container in any way, then the skin will stick to it. That means anyone with a larger build you cannot fit into the equipment cannot use this therapy option. The result would be similar to what happens when you stick your tongue to a cold flagpole, like the famous scene in the movie A Christmas Story.
The pros and cons of cryotherapy are essential to consider when you have long-term ailments that routinely bother you. It can be an option for freckles, wrinkles, and fine lines as well, but its real power comes with the potential for improved healing. If you don’t mind the cost of each procedure, then you may wish to give this treatment option a try after discussing these key points with your doctor.