Cold As Ice! Cryotherapy Has Many Benefits, But Is It Healthy?

Athletes soak in an ice bath to improve performance and to recover from muscle pains and spasms. Since the late 1970s, Japan has been using cold treatments, exposing the body to temperatures below -200 °F for 2-4 minutes. This method is known as cryotherapy. In recent years, the concept has taken over America. There is even a chamber that uses liquid nitrogen (called a Cryosauna) which popped up around major cities for the public to use, at a cost. Whether you choose the ice bath, spot treatment, or the Cryosauna, there are many alleged cryotherapy benefits. It can be used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and even promote weight loss. With all the different health benefits, it naturally brings up the questions, does it actually work? And is it healthy?

Caucasian man sitting in snow in front of a large rectangular opening of water dug out the snow. Cryotherapy.
Ice baths are common among athletes to relieve muscle pain. This is a form of cryotherapy.

The Benefits

With multiple cryo-therapeutic forms come multiple benefits. Here are some to name a few:

    • Cryoablation is when extreme cold is used to destroy diseased tissue, including cancer. Think of the extreme cold used to remove a wart or mole.
    • Ice baths help regulate hormones, and relieve muscle pain and tension.
    • Cryolipolysis, also known as CoolSculpting, is a relatively new procedure that involves non-invasive cooling of body fat to break down fat cells. This will lead to reduced body fat, without risking damage to other tissues.
    • Whole Body Cryotherapy chambers are said to help produce benefits for the whole body. The benefits are faster recovery from a sports injury, weight loss, improved mood, more energy, and younger looking skin.

The Buzz About Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC)

Stepping into a sub-zero chamber sounds interesting, and raises skepticism at the same time. Suspicions arise when stepping into something that cold for even just a short period of time. Well, it is safe to say that you are not the only one skeptical. The US Food and Drug  Administration (FDA) has not approved or cleared any kind of devices used for whole body cryotherapy. This is because there is not enough research and testing done to make sure it is completely safe. A few problems have actually been reported with the use of WBC.

Woman dressed in a winter coat walking through a tunnel of snow.
Whole body cryotherapy has not been approved by the FDA. There have been some skepticism surrounding the practice, although many do it.

While it comes with amazing benefits, it may actually worsen some conditions. First off, pregnant women should not enter one for the safety of their baby, and themselves. Secondly, if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, major heart or lung disease, allergies triggered by cold, poor circulation, or neuropathy, it can worsen from WBC. Some people reported skin irritations such as scarring, and burns, some being fatal cases.

The hype of WBC came around 2015, and yes, there are some reports to people losing weight, feeling better, and relieving muscle soreness. However, there are also reports of people with conditions worsening. It is important to seek your doctor’s approval before going into a chamber. This does not mean that all forms of cryotherapy are bad though. The kind used by medical professionals to get rid of dead or dying tissues, and cancer, are both useful and beneficial. Whether you decide to try the chamber, an ice bath or CoolSculpting, just make sure to do it after some research and discuss it with your doctor. It’s a really cool idea, get it? But, overall better health is the main goal, so make sure it is safe for you before trying out the new trend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Let's Chat