The cryotherapy is a cold application on the body for therapeutic purposes. There have always been cold therapies. We know its benefits for our body. We all get ice when we are hit or have some inflammation, for example. What modern cryotherapy does is enhance these effects. Now we can reach much lower temperatures completely safely and in this way we achieve greater benefits in less time.

A full-body cryotherapy session lasts around three minutes. The temperature ranges from -110 ° C to -196 ° C, but the regulation mechanisms of our body prevent the body temperature from dropping from 36.5 ° C in such a short time. Meanwhile, a series of reactions with very beneficial effects are launched.

Cryotherapy and its History

Full-body cryotherapy, as we know it today, was developed in the late 1970s in Japan by Dr. Toshima Yamauchi. This Japanese doctor found a method to quickly cool the body surface using nitrogen in the gaseous state. At the same time avoiding cooling the underlying tissues. Dr. Yamauchi used it for therapeutic purposes to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The ancient Egyptians already used cold-based therapies as a health and wellness treatment. Its effectiveness has been proven over time. The lowering of the temperatures at the surface of the skin leads to the release of endorphins, which produce a feeling of well-being and pain relief.

Research in the last two decades, especially in Europe and specifically in Germany (Dr. Fricke) and Poland (Dr. Zagrobelny), have confirmed the therapeutic efficacy of cryotherapy in many clinical areas. The major research focus has been the treatment of pain and musculoskeletal disorders.

What is cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy consists of exposing the body surface to very low temperatures (between -110 ºC and -196 ºC). In a short period of time (2 to 4 minutes). This is possible thanks to the use of evaporated liquid nitrogen, in a controlled environment and always under medical supervision. Extreme cold conditions are used to induce a body response. A response at three levels: circulatory, muscular and neuroendocrine.

The exaggerated temperature reduction at the skin surface level stimulates thermoreceptors (sensors that react to cold stimuli). And, these emit signals to the brain to generate a response as a defense mechanism against the impending situation of hypothermia. 

What effect does cryotherapy have on the body?

The application of cold in cryotherapy involves the entire spinal cord so that systemic effects are achieved throughout the body. In contrast, localized cryotherapy is limited to a few segments of the cord, so its effects are limited to the area of ​​application. 

The main effects of cryotherapy

  • Analgesic effect: cryotherapy has proven very effective in the treatment of pain, both acute and chronic. For example, in the case of fibromyalgia patients. The extreme cold of whole-body cryotherapy slows nerve conduction and inhibits nociceptive fibers, which helps reduce the sensation of pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory effect: Cryotherapy influences the inflammatory process in a manner similar to that explained in the reduction of pain. The application of extreme cold on the skin causes a reduction of inflammation-dependent hyperperfusion through vasoconstriction. Also, desensitization of nociceptors, a reduction in muscle tone and a reduction in the neurogenic release of inflammation mediators.
  • Metabolic activation: the intense cold generated inside the cabin promotes a series of reactions in the body to compensate for the temperature drop at the level of the outer surface of the skin. Activates the metabolism and mobilization of accumulated fats. You can burn between 200 and 800 kilocalories per session. Lost not only during the three minutes of the application of the cold but for the next six hours afterward.
  • Relaxation: cryotherapy favors the release of endorphins and serotonin. In addition, other natural substances that produce a feeling of well-being and help fight stress. 

The shock effect produced by the extreme cold stimulus generates the following effects:

  • Vasoconstriction occurs, followed by vasodilation. In the face of extreme cold, the brain sends a signal to transport the blood to the vital organs. There, the blood is enriched with oxygen and other nutrients and the toxins are cleared. When leaving the cryo sauna, vasodilation occurs: the blood becomes enriched to the peripheral systems of the body.
  • They are released substances such as endorphins, which produce a sense of wellbeing.
  • Through neuro reflex mechanisms, positive results are obtained at the level of pain perception and inflammatory processes.

Benefits of cryotherapy proven by medicine

There are a number of reactions with very beneficial effects of this treatment:

  • Reduces inflammation: Inflammation is a defensive response of the body, which sends substances through the blood to a specific area of ​​the body to protect it. The cold causes vasoconstriction, that is, it contracts the blood vessels. In this way, the body can send less blood to that area and we can keep the inflammation controlled. This is especially beneficial after great physical stress or exercise.
  • Pain relief. The cold also decreases the conduction velocity of the nerves that send the pain signal to the brain. The signal arrives later and with less intensity, so the pain threshold increases.
  • Activation of metabolism. To compensate for the sudden drop in temperature, the body mobilizes accumulated fat. Depending on the person, between 200 and 800 calories can be burned in a cryotherapy session, not only during the three minutes in which the cold is applied but during the hours that the effect is prolonged.

Thanks to these effects, cryotherapy has important applications in the beauty, sports and health sectors. In addition, it promotes the release of endorphins and serotonin, so it also contributes to the patient’s well – being. 

Cryotherapy as it acts in chronic pain? How long does it last?

As we have explained, cold has a powerful analgesic effect and cryotherapy, unlike the application of localized cold, involves the entire spinal cord, so the effect is much broader. A three-minute stay in the cold cabin can inhibit and resolve chronic pain for several hours. After several sessions, the effect is enhanced and pain relief produces a release for several weeks.

The nerve fibers responsible for sending the cold impulse to the brain are faster than those responsible for transmitting pain signals. When these two nerve pathways are excited, competition occurs between the two. The fastest inhibits the action of the slowest. In this way, the body identifies as more urgent the impulses caused by extreme cold and inhibits pain signals. Nociceptors are desensitized or even deactivated, reducing the ability to detect pain stimuli. 

How does the anti-inflammatory effect occur with Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy modifies the centrally regulated systemic defense functions. These include these localized inflammatory processes. Inflammation is a physiological process of healing the body itself, essential and necessary for the protection of healthy tissues and repair of injured tissues. As a consequence of its application, there are:

  • Vasomotor effects: Applying cold on the body surface produces cutaneous vasoconstriction. The reduction of blood flow has also been observed at the joint level. This phase is followed by vasodilation of the deep vessels (Lewis phenomenon). Which favors lymphatic drainage.
  • The metabolic effects: There is a decrease in oxygen consumption and a decrease in metabolism in the affected area. This causes a decrease in the secretion of the mediators of inflammation and also of pain.
  • Sensitive-motor effects. The cold raises the painful threshold of nociceptors and decreases the speed of nerve conduction.
  • The neuromuscular effects. The cold causes a decrease in spasticity. It is produced by two mechanisms. On the one hand, due to the decrease in gamma hyperactivity. And, on the other, by the decrease in afferent discharges of the neuromuscular spindle. This process results in a decrease in muscle tone, which breaks the spasm-contracture-pain cycle.

How does cryotherapy work at the metabolic level?

The effectiveness in the treatment of cellulite, sagging and fat accumulation has been demonstrated. The intense cold, generated inside the cryotherapy cabin, promotes a series of reactions in the body in order to compensate for the temperature drop at the level of the outer surface of the skin. It produces an activation of the metabolism and the mobilization of accumulated fats. You can burn between 200 and 800 kilocalories in one session. 

What substances are released with cryotherapy and what effects do they produce in the body?

The main substances released by the body after cryotherapy are endorphins and serotonin.

The endorphins are neuropeptides released through the spinal cord and the bloodstream. They promote calmness. They create a state of well-being. They improve mood. They reduce pain. They delay the aging process. Enhance the functions of the immune system. In addition, they counteract the high levels of adrenaline associated with anxiety.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in various regions of the central nervous system, related to mood. Involved in the regulation of appetite. It influences sexual desire, motor activity, they promote sleep and wakefulness. And they also help in perceptual and cognitive functions, among others. 

Does cryotherapy have contraindications?

  • As a general guideline, its use is not recommended in people with heart problems.
  • If the session is to be done after one of the meals, it should wait about 2 hours until the end of the digestion.
  • People who are in one of the following situations should not undergo cryotherapy or should consult beforehand with their doctor: serious general condition, decompensation of chronic cardiovascular diseases, acute myocardial infarction, stage II heart failure, unfavorable prognosis heart rate, hypertension (≥ 180/100 mm Hg) and stroke. Also, vascular diseases: Raynaud’s syndrome, systemic vasculitis, Cryoglobulinemia, agammaglobulinemia, cryofibrinogenemia. Fever with more than 37.5°C, Tuberculosis, Malignant tumors, Hemorrhagic diathesis, and severe anemia. Hyperthyroidism Hysterical Neurosis Cold intolerance Cold urticaria Pregnancy and children under 15 years. 

What precautions should be taken?

  • Stripping metal objects (earrings, rings, piercing, etc.)
  • Put on the guards that are provided to protect your feet
  • Enter the cabin in underwear. Bra and panties if it is a woman; and slip if it is male (recommended cotton), and socks
  • Make sure the skin is perfectly dry
  • Do not use any cream before the session. The remains of body creams that may remain on the skin should be removed if previously used.
  • In case of carrying piercings that cannot be removed, they should be covered with tape
  • The head must be above the upper end of the cabin before starting the session. For which the height of the base of the cabin will be adjusted
  • The safety collar must be placed and adjusted to the neck to prevent the escape of vapors into the airways during the session 

Who uses cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is increasingly widespread in high competition sport. In Australia, this treatment has been fully implemented among clubs and athletes for years to take care of its preparation and recovery. In the rest of the world, growth is being very noticeable.

Are you in Australia? Do you want to get all the advantages of cryotherapy aforementioned? You should book a section with CHILL CHAMBER, which is located in Perth Western Australia.