Cryotherapy is a relatively new physical therapy that has been gaining tremendous popularity in the United States. Celebrity and professional athlete endorsements have led to a slew of local Cryotherapy spas popping up in local areas. Simply put; cryotherapy involves 2-5 minute exposures of extremely low temperatures as a means to promote health benefits and quicken physical recovery. While this practice has drawn some criticism after the death of a Nevada woman, it is generally considered a very safe and effective practice. Ice cold air has been used, one way or another, in the treatment and management of pain since antiquity. Cryotherapy chambers and localized cryotherapy treatments seem to simply be a modernized extension of these basic principles of healing and promoting wellness. Cryotherapy seems to offer some really exciting health benefits, though the science on this practice is still pretty thin.
What is Cryotherapy
There are several kinds of cryotherapy, but the one which is regarded as being most casual is in the use of a cryotherapy chamber, also known as a ‘cryo chamber’. These whole body enclosures utilize a modernized practice of cold therapy developed by a Japanese doctor in the late 1970’s. By using a nitrogen gas, these cryo chambers are able to drop the temperature of your body’s skin temperature to near 30 degrees farenheit in a matter of 2-4 minutes. This extreme drop in temperature forces your body into a type of survival mode, where blood is pulled to your core to help protect vital organs and body functions. Research has shown that this type of whole body cryotherapy may help promote nervous system function, lessen muscle soreness, and help to reduce overall inflammation [1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956737/]. The FDA on the other hand, seems to have one very snarky ‘blog’ post iterating the fact they feel any such claims of health benefits one might see from a ‘quick Internet search for the term “whole body cryotherapy”‘ aren’t valid statements.
Benefits of Cryotherapy
It’s important to consider the FDA’s stance on cryosauna use, and realize that they still believe this practice to lack any scientific basis for showing health benefits. That said, the FDA is a large entity, slow-moving, and research data on the healthy benefits of anything to already healthy people is very light. With that said, cold therapy practices have been used for centuries as a means of stimulating alertness, muscle recovery, pain management, and even immune system stimulation. Such approaches as the Wim Hof method have also gained tremendous favor in recent years, and these types of alternative training methods have been scientifically shown to ‘voluntarily influence’ the nervous and immune system [2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034215/]. All these types of extreme temperature therapies make use of taking advantage of the body’s robust tendency to fight for survival in abrupt environmental changes.
cryotherapy may benefit a great number of health concerns, such as arthritis pains, asthma, anxiety, headaches
These methods of Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) involve subjecting your entire body, including your head, to extremely low temperatures. Cryogenic chambers used in Whole Body Cryotherapy practices use the ice cold air to help lower surface temperature of your skin an amount not possible through the use of ice baths, polar plunges, or even the Wim Hof method. Cryotherapy temperatures can be as low as -300 degrees Fahrenheit, although a more typical range is from -150 to -200 degrees. Obviously, this extremely low temperature would be enough for someone to freeze to death, or do serious tissue damage if conducted for too long. For this reason, Cryogenic therapy sessions usually on last a few minutes at most—typically 3 minutes. Aside from the adrenaline rush and abrupt waking sensations, anecdotal evidence suggests that cryotherapy may benefit a great number of health concerns, such as arthritis pains, asthma, anxiety, headaches, and also helps aid in weight loss. One potential side effect of cryosauna use is that of frostbite, such as experienced by professional sprinter Justin Gatlin after entering a cryo chamber wearing damp socks [3. http://www.espn.com/olympics/trackandfield/story/_/id/6890891/justin-gatlin-arrives-world-championships-frostbite].
Where to Find A Cryotherapy Chamber Near You
Whole body Cryotherapy may end up being one of the most popular alternative health therapies around, but for now—it’s still pretty hard to find a cold-therapy chamber locally. Many sports fitness centers are beginning to try them out, and even some local health clubs have begun to dabble. For the most part, finding a cryotherapy chamber near you is going to depend greatly on where you live, and how far you’re willing to travel. Typically speaking, these types of therapies can also range up to as much as $90, but can also be had for extremely discounted prices through retailer discount sites like Groupon. To get a better idea of the type of services and prices available for local cryotherapy chambers, take a quick look at this listing for 3 to 5 cryotherapy sessions from a local Charlotte, NC cryotherapy club. These types of rates will likely be different depending on where you live, but should be comparably similar.
What to Expect
Cryotherapy is an exciting new modernized means of providing cold temperatures to the human body for holistic benefits. Morning swims in natural springs, alternating sauna and ice therapies, and the polar plunges of the Wim Hof programs all utilize the invigorating response the human body has to abrupt changes in it’s environment. Seen largely as a survival response, these types of reactions can be ‘hacked’ and used to promote long-term health benefits in many cases. To get a better idea of the type of experience offered by whole body cryotherapy and nitrogen chambers, have a look at the following video by Groupon, where two volunteer employees test out cryotherapy for the first time!
Cryotherapy Chambers for Sale
As of the time of this article, there aren’t many cryotherapy chambers for retail sale to consumers. These types of cold air units involve the use of nitrogen gas, which isn’t exactly something you can pick up at the gas station. Industrial-type suppliers of gas products, such as those used by welders, bars, and other industries making use of compressed gases are sometimes known to carry Nitrogen products in stock, but in small quantities. This is anther availability issues in which you would be entirely dependent on local availability. As far as purchasing your own cryotherapy chamber—you’d better have a BIG budget. If you’ve got the pockets, there are quite a few cryochambers listed on eBay in the 20-50K range. In all seriousness though, you’d likely want to get in contact with a manufacturer for the purchase of this type of item, unless you really know what you’re up to!
Cryotherapy shows high promise as an emerging alternative therapy in the management of pain and many other health issues. The FDA doesn’t currently regard cryotherapy as offering any scientifically-backed merit, though many anecdotal accounts and sparse clinical data suggest there is something here to consider. Many so-called ‘alternative’ therapies—such as the exciting benefits of infrared light—are emerging in the market of personal health care. These types of approaches to helping fortify and strengthen health from a holistic approach are a new way of thinking for many in Western cultures. There is a distinct lack of clinical motivation to investigate the effects of natural treatments on already healthy patients. For that reason—among many other—many of us are simply left to use ourselves as guinea pigs and see how we react personally. As with any approach meant to affect your health, you should always check first with your doctor.