What is Cryotherapy, and what can it treat.

Holistic Team -

Cold environments have been associated with flu, heart disease among other diseases.

Naturally, humans have been found over time to move to warmer areas and avoid cold areas of settlement.

However, did you know that an extremely cold environment can improve your mental and physical health? In the long run, its effects can prolong human life?

Research has led this development to a new trend of treatment called Cryotherapy.

Despite sitting in a cold chamber for treatment seems like an odd way to get better health, Cryotherapy has been linked with health benefits as outlined below.

Nonetheless, research is still ongoing on the full benefits and setbacks that can be associated with Cryotherapy.

What is Cryotherapy?

Also known as Cold therapy, Cryotherapy is the use of low temperatures on and in the body for medical treatment. Unlike other methods of medical treatment, Cryotherapy is only done for a few minutes.

Cold therapy on specific areas can be administered through coolant sprays, ice massage, ice baths, ice packs or even through probes that are administered into the nerve tissue.

Cryotherapy can be subdivided into:

Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC)

WBC can be classified into two types of cryotherapy. In the first case, the individual is immersed in a cryogenic chamber filled with liquid nitrogen. WBC can also be done as a partial body Cryotherapy using cylindrical chambers known as Cryosaunas. In a Cryosauna, the head of the individual stays out of the chamber and is therefore not part of the cryotherapy. WBC stimulates the production of endorphins. Endorphins act as painkillers which reduce pain, insomnia, among other benefits.

Cryosurgery is also known as Cryoablation. Cryosurgery involves the application of cold liquid nitrogen to tissue or unwanted cells like cancer cells. The application can be done using a metal device known as a cryoprobe, a cotton swab or a spray. Once the unwanted cells freeze, the frozen part of the skin thaws and falls off leaving a white scar.

Cryofacial is typically used by cosmetic dermatologists to create a smooth glowing face. Cryofacial is done by blasting hyper-cooled air on the skin surface. It works by reducing acne-causing sebum on the face, reduces the visibility of the pores and skin puffiness and maintains a vibrant, radiant skin.

Icepack cryotherapy
In icepack cryotherapy, ice packs are placed on the injured area to absorb any heat brought by the injury. Icepacks also reduce muscle soreness.

What is Cryotherapy used to treat?

The therapy can be used in many treatment procedures including early-stage cancer treatments or nerve entrapment conditions in the body.
Some of the cancerous conditions where Cryotherapy can be used include:

  • Early Stage Retinoblastoma-This is a type of cancer that affects the eye Retina of children. When detected early enough, blasts of cryosurgery can be done on the retina to thaw off the tumor.
  • Early stage cancers of the skin like squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas.
  • Precancerous growths on the skin like actinic keratosis
  • Early stages of cervical cancer. Precancerous conditions that can lead to cervical cancer. For example, abnormal cell changes in the cervix can also be treated with cryosurgery.
  • Early prostate cancer can also be treated with cryosurgery. However, it can only be used in small areas where cancer has not spread outside the gland.

Cryotherapy can also be used to treat conditions that are associated with nerve irritation. Blasts of cryotherapy help to reduce and mitigate irritation of the nerves.
Such nerve conditions include:

  • Benign nerve growth
  • Cluneal nerve entrapments
  • Neuromas

The History of Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy has been used for various medical therapies for centuries now. Cryo stands for cold while therapy is derived from therapeia which means a cure. Cryotherapy is a combination of the two Greek words.

Cryotherapy had been identified as a method of medical therapy used by ancient Egyptians for trauma and trauma-related ailments. According to an Egyptian text known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus that was written in 1600 BCE, Cryotherapy was mentioned as a medical therapy in many pages of the text. Alongside with trauma, Cryotherapy was also used to treat injury and inflammation.

Cryotherapy later advanced to being used as a painkiller and reduce swellings by the Hippocrates in 400BCE. The Anglo-Saxon Monks of 1050 AD started using Cryotherapy as a mode of anesthesia.

Napoleon’s surgeon was also known to use cryosurgery for amputations during the historic retreat from Moscow. In the 19th century, in Brighton, England, James Arnott exhibited the use of cold salt solutions to treat conditions like neuralgia and headaches.

Many advancements have been done since the 19th century. However, modern Cryotherapy can be attributed to Dr. Yamaguchi in 1978 when he invented the Whole Body Cryotherapy. Dr. Yamaguchi used freezing treatments to treat rheumatoid arthritis and pain alleviation.

Dr. Yamaguchi explained the correlation of low temperatures and how the cold stimulated the drastic release of endorphins in the body. In the modern day, Cryotherapy has been recognized in many fields as a good physical therapy alternative.

Over the years, the intensity of Cryotherapy use has been determined by what is Cryotherapy used treat at each given time.

What are the benefits of Cryotherapy?

With research ongoing about modern Cryotherapy, preliminary studies have shown the following benefits:

Weight loss
Cryotherapy alone is not a method of burning fat. However, it helps to facilitate the weight loss journey. This works by increasing the metabolism of the body and forcing the body to work harder to stay warm.

When the body is exposed to a cold environment, metabolism is increased, and as the body works harder to stay warm, the weight loss journey is supported. However, critics have downplayed the theory since the body will eventually adjust and the metabolism will be back to normal.
According to a  study in 2016, people who used to Cryotherapy alone for weight loss did not record any weight loss after ten sessions of cryotherapy.

Preventing Inflammation and its complications
The immune system fights foreign interference in the body using inflammation. Sometimes, the inflammation can be chronic where the immune system becomes over-reactive.

As a result, chronic inflammation leads to health complications like dementia, diabetes, depression, cancer, arthritis among other complications.

Despite no recorded evidence of fully developed cancer treatment being done with Cryotherapy, Cryotherapy can be used in early stages of Cancer development. By stopping inflammations, Cryotherapy acts a reliable treatment option for the above conditions.

Reduces depression and anxiety
According to a  study in 2018,Cryotherapy reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression by over 50 percent. The reduction was more drastic in those that had undergone the therapy compared to those that had not.

Muscle healing and pain relief
Cryotherapy promotes faster healing and relief, especially on athletic injuries. When an ice pack is placed on an injury, it creates a numb feeling which acts as anesthesia and absorbs any heat that was brought by the injury.

Moreover, when the icepack is removed, more blood flows on the affected area thereby promoting faster healing. According to a published  study  in 2000, Cryotherapy gave the best form of pain relief for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the risks and side effects of Cryotherapy?

  • After alleviating pain, Cryotherapy can leave the affected areas with a tingling numbness sensation.
  • It can cause irritation and redness of the skin. However, this is temporary in most cases.
  • When skin integrity is overlooked, and Cryotherapy left for too long, It can lead to integumentary damage.
  • Whole body Cryotherapy can lead to a decreased heart rate, lower respiration, and increased blood pressure if left for too long.

What should I expect in a Cryotherapy session?

Regardless of the type of Cryotherapy being done, it should not exceed 7 minutes. For whole body Cryotherapy, the doctor will only allow you to have therapy if you are not pregnant, you have no high blood pressure, and no heart conditions.

Depending on the location, Cryotherapy cost ranges from $61 to $100 per session. In the chamber, the Cryotherapy temperature could go as low as -110 degrees Celsius. In most cases, the results of the therapy may not be visible during the first visit. As you advance with your sessions, the results will start becoming evident.