Cryotherapy can be a treatment where a doctor applies liquid nitrogen to a lesion to kill it. In another type of cryotherapy called whole body cryotherapy, you stand in a chamber and expose your body to very low temperatures. People who use this therapy believe it can help you lose weight, cure migraine headaches, lift depression and ease the pain of arthritis and other maladies. But is this true? Here are five facts that you should know about cryotherapy:
1. It Might Soothe Sore Muscles
Some athletes claim cryotherapy keeps their muscles from getting sore after a workout. When the athlete enters a cryotherapy chamber, they’re exposed to temperatures as low as – 220 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s much colder than the coldest temperature ever recorded on earth. When the body encounters temperatures like that, it feels that it’s under attack and shunts blood flow from the fingers, toes and skin to the vital organs. Since the blood isn’t reaching the muscles or joints, swelling, pain and inflammation are reduced. This speeds up healing in the area, according to devotees.
2. Whole Body Cryotherapy Is Not Well Regulated
It seems that anyone who has access to a cryotherapy chamber can offer whole body cryotherapy, or WBC. It does not require a medical license, and as of 2020 has not been approved for use by the FDA.
There’s at least one state that has suggested guidelines for WBC. Patients shouldn’t be pregnant, under five feet tall, have a pacemaker, a history of claustrophobia or seizures or have circulatory problems. They shouldn’t stay in the chamber for more than three minutes. The practitioners should have emergency equipment and should give patients proper warnings and disclaimers.
3. WBC Originated in Japan
Whole body cryotherapy comes from Japan. It was developed by Toshima Yamaguchi around 1978. He was a rheumatologist who treated patients suffering from such painful joint conditions as rheumatoid arthritis. He found that freezing the top layer of the epidermis of his patients eased their pain and soreness when the manipulated their joints.
4. Cryotherapy Isn’t New
Though a chamber cooled down to sub-Antarctic temperatures by liquid nitrogen is a modern development, people have been using cold to treat pain and soreness for millennia. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians were using cold in 2500 BC, and during the Victorian era, doctors used cryotherapy to treat different types of cancer. In those days they applied packs of salt and crushed ice.
5. Cryotherapy Does Work on Certain Cancers
Localized cryotherapy does work to destroy cancerous lesions on the skin and cervix. However, it doesn’t work on cancers that are within the body.
Is whole body cryotherapy all that it’s cracked up to be? Some elite athletes swear by it, while more skeptical types such as journalists and investigators claim that its benefits are overblown. More study needs to be done on this therapy.