Definition of Cryotherapy: "Cryotherapy, sometimes known as cold therapy, is the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy. Cryotherapy may be used to treat a variety of tissue lesions. The most prominent use of the term refers to the surgical treatment, specifically known as cryosurgery or cryoablation.
Professional athletes claim cryotherapy (cold therapy) speeds recovery. Now available to the public, weekend athletes are engaging in this too. Is there any research to show it decreases muscle soreness and speeds recovery?
Many of us who have engaged in physical exercise have experienced the muscle soreness that develops 24 – 48 hours post exercise. The term for this is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), it is a simply the result of micro tears within the muscle tissue. When you run downhill, lift heavy weights and the lowering of a heavy weight slowly will tend to cause more soreness than uphill or even level running. This exercise-induced muscle damage results in soreness, inflammation, pain and discomfort, and temporarily decreases strength which can delay recovery. For many years, athletes as well as medical professionals have used cryotherapy like the application of ice to treat injuries. Cryotherapy decreases blood flow, inflammation, and pain; for these reasons, it is often used to treat acute injuries. Rather than using ice packs and ice baths, and spending 20 to 30 minutes in an ice bath, athletes are trying whole-body cryotherapy which uses a special cryochamber or cryosauna that keeps the temperature between -166 to -220 degrees F. YIKES! ... Now that's pretty darn cold.
Some chambers accommodate up to four people at a time. Subjects wear minimal clothing to prevent frostbite and gradually progress to the coldest chamber temperature. The athlete spends no more than 2 – 3 minutes in the chamber/sauna. It has become increasingly popular with professional sports teams like the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL. For this reason many of the teams have there own cryochambers for their athletes to use after every game with the hope of speeding recovery.
How about research?
Well, researchers found that ratings of muscle pain and tiredness were reduced after the first whole body cryotherapy (WBC) session. There were, however, no differences in recovery of quadricep strength between the cryotherapy and passive recovery sessions. Although creatine kinase increased significantly after each run, levels were not different between passive recovery and cryotherapy. Other studies (Gill et al., 2006; Banfi et al., 2007; Wozniak, et al., 2007), however, reported that cryotherapy decreased levels of creatine kinase compared to passive recovery, suggesting cryotherapy may facilitate muscle fiber repair, enhancing recovery.
When comparing ice baths and WBC is that WBC yields far better results in a fraction of the time, as well as, being far more comfortable than sitting for 30 minutes in a tub of freezing water.
WBC, I believe, is here to stay and you will begin to see more of these saunas popping up around town and readily available to the public. If you haven't tried WBC I highly encourage you to give it some deep consideration.
🏆Bonus! -- It's also great for weight loss too!
For up to about 8 hours following your whole body CRYO session, you'll burn about 2000−3300 Kilojoules (kJ). That's around 500 – 800 calories. So, a 3 minute CRYO session is the equivalent of a 45 minute run. Woot! Woot! In order to achieve weight loss, you need to burn an extra 500 calories per day.
Cryotherapy you've got my vote! 👍🏻👍🏻