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Whole Body Cryotherapy is a therapeutic cold exposure therapy designed to lower the body surface temperature and accelerate the body’s natural recovery and rejuvenation processes. A short duration of enclosed exposure to subzero refrigerated cold, dry air drops the body surface temperature approximately 35-40 degrees. The treatment lasts only 2-3 minutes. Hands, feet, and ears are covered, and a medical grade mask is worn to reduce direct inhalation of the cool air.
The rapid drop in skin temperature tricks the body into thinking it is in hypothermia. In response to the perceived freezing, the metabolic rate increases and thermo receptors near the surface of the skin send signals to the brain to stimulate rapid vasoconstriction of the blood vessels. Blood moves away from peripheral tissues and towards the core to regulate body temperature and protect vital organs. In the core, the body’s natural filtration system works to expel toxins and inflammatory properties in the blood and speed the distribution of pain reducing endorphins.
Upon completion of the treatment, the body temperature rises and highly oxygenated blood flows back to the extremities through a process called vasodilation. Peripheral tissues and the brain are enriched with oxygen, nutrients and enzymes. The body also releases adrenaline and endorphins leaving many clients feeling energized and even euphoric. As the process of restoration occurs over the next 48 hours, range of motion increases, depleted ATP (energy) levels are replaced and anti-oxidant levels expedite the body’s natural ability to heal. The body and the brain are reset.
Localized Cryotherapy is an isolated cold exposure therapy focused on any one specific area of pain or inflammation. Localized cryotherapy can be used as a stand alone treatment analogous to a concentrated ice pack; however, maximum benefits are seen when localized treatments are administered immediately after whole body cryotherapy. Because the whole body treatment results in vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels), the isolated cold treatment can better treat the specific area of inflammation.
When the immune system becomes overly reactive, it will cause inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s way of eliminating the cause of cell injury and dead cells and initiating tissue repair. When nerves are damaged or not functioning properly, pain messages are passed along the nociceptive fibers to the central nervous system. The extreme cold temperatures of whole body cryotherapy numb the nerves to slow the messages passed along the nociceptive pain fibers, reducing stimuli to the central nervous system. The release of endorphins also helps dull pain in the body. By reducing pain and allowing for more aggressive physical and occupational therapies, clients can enjoy faster recovery and accelerated post-surgery recovery to return to normal activities sooner.
Chronic Pain and Disease
While whole body cryotherapy is primarily associated with pain associated with acute injury and muscle injuries, medical studies report routine use of whole-body cryotherapy reduces inflammation to alleviate chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and ankylosing spondylosis. Inflammation is also believed to be at the center of many diseases associated with aging and disability, including heart disease, diabetes stroke, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Use of whole-body cryotherapy on a regular basis will not cure any one of these diseases; however, studies are now looking at how the routine cold exposure may serve as a preventative course.
One anti-inflammatory response associated with whole body cryotherapy is the increased production of norepinephrine (NE). Evidence shows norepinephrine deficiencies are linked to variety of attention, mood and sleep disorders. Using routine whole-body cryotherapy has shown to regain norepinephrine balance, increasing mental clarity and focus. Clients report longer and more restful sleep and the ability to manage a variety of mood disorders including depression and PTSD. Norepinephrine also acts as a neurotransmitter to inhibit inflammatory pathways addressing inflammatory diseases and aging. Preliminary studies also show routing use of whole-body cryotherapy improves memory in older patients with cognitive impairment.
In response to the rapid cold exposure of whole-body cryotherapy, your body increases its metabolic rate in order to produce more heat and protect the core. On average, clients burn between 400-800 calories per treatment session. While a consistent whole-body cryotherapy regimen will contribute to overall weight loss, it is important to note that as with any method targeting weight loss, a healthy diet and regular exercise will create and maintain optimal results. The metabolic boost also increases endorphins resulting in improved sleep and overall mood enhancement. Cooling of the skin has also been effective in treating migraines.
Anti-Aging and Beauty
Whole body cryotherapy is used to detox and rejuvenate the skin by stimulating collagen. Collagen is the most important component to healthy and youthful skin. While your skin is made up of many layers, the dermal (middle) layer contains an intricate collagen matrix. As you age, the production of collagen slows, and the matrix becomes less firm and resilient and the resulting thin skin becomes more vulnerable to environmental damage. Fatty deposits also build up over time resulting in unsightly cellulite. Whole body cryotherapy increases blood flow and stimulates collagen production in the deeper layers of the skin. Oxygenation of the dermal cells reduces pore size and leaves skin tighter and smoother with increased elasticity. After a series of treatments, clients report improved skin tone, brightened dark spots and a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Skin elasticity is increased visible cellulite is reduced. Cooling the skin also improves anti-oxidant levels which has been claimed to reduce acne and dry skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.
For the athlete, oxidative stress is the main factor affecting performance. Intense muscle activity breaks down fibers in the muscle groups exerted and generates oxidants into the intercellular space damaging membranes, cellular structure and DNA. Pro-inflammatory tissue chemicals form to begin the process of tissue repair; however, these chemicals must be neutralized by our immune systems in order to begin repair.
Research supports the effectiveness of whole-body cryotherapy in enhancing anti-oxidants to relieve accumulated metabolic inflammation and decrease soreness and swelling. Following metabolic overload, the extreme cold exposure lowers the amount of post-external pro-inflammatory tissue chemicals and induces the body to release anti-inflammatory proteins including IL-10, Pro inflammatory cytokine IL-2 and chemokine IL-8. Whole body cryotherapy enhances psychological recovery, decreases perception of muscular tiredness and pain, and induces analgesia. Motor unit activation is improved, and athletes report a significant decrease in Delayed Muscle Onset Soreness (DOMS).
Athletes are also finding whole body cryotherapy to be a stimulating treatment pre-workout to enhance anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant barriers to prevent chronic injuries due to overload. With the reduction in inflammation, clients experience increased endurance and accelerated injury repair and recovery. This allows the athletes the ability to obtain peak performance with less mandatory rest time and enjoy greater frequency and intensity to maintain stamina during competition.