You may have heard about cryotherapy chambers in the news. Many celebrities and elite athletes have embraced this alternative treatment and believe it leads to improved health and well-being. While the image of a metallic cylinder billowing white smoke seems decidedly new age, the practice of cryotherapy is centuries-old.
What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is the practice of applying cold to the body to alleviate symptoms and speed recovery.
How Long Has Cryotherapy Been Available?
Humans have long believed that soaking in cold water is curative. The ancient Egyptians did it, as did Hippocrates. If you visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, you will notice a 200-year-old water stain on the floor next to his bed. The President would place his feet in a bucket of cold water upon waking. He maintained that his daily foot bath contributed to his good health. Winter swimming, a popular pastime in Russia and Scandinavia for generations, is associated with increased vigor and elevated mood. Cold therapy has evolved into more sophisticated applications, too.
How is Cryotherapy Used Today?
Cryotherapy is considered standard protocol for many conditions. Athletes may find that taking an ice bath after a workout can reduce soreness and swelling. Doctors often recommend placing an ice pack on bruises and sprains to decrease inflammation and expedite healing. Dermatologists routinely use cryotherapy in the form of liquid nitrogen to freeze off skin lesions. Cryotherapy options are now available for internal procedures, as well. For example, precancerous tissue in the cervix can be destroyed using a cryoprobe, halting the spread of abnormal cells. Malignant areas in the prostate can be frozen and disabled thanks to an argon-gas-infused needle. As the use of cryotherapy grows in the medical field, cold delivery systems have been developed for the health and wellness sector, too. Thus the cryotherapy chamber was born.
What Exactly is a Cryotherapy Chamber?
A cryotheraphy chamber is an enclosure that is cooled to an extreme subzero temperature. A walk-in unit, allowing a whole-body experience, is usually set to minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take 20 degrees. A cryosauna only exposes the lower body (from the shoulders down) to this cold therapy, and it may reach minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In either case, the session lasts no more than three minutes to avoid frostbite and nerve damage. The goal is to significantly reduce your skin surface temperature so that your body directs blood to its core. There your blood becomes more infused with oxygen and nutrients. Once you exit the chamber and your temperature rises, your enriched blood rushes back through your system.
How Do People Feel After Using a Cryotherapy Chamber?
Cryotherapy chamber proponents say they feel more energetic and focused, and enjoy improved sleep. Some use this cold therapy to treat anxiety, depression, and stress. There are also reports of physical benefits. These include relief from chronic pain and faster recovery times from injury. And some enthusiasts claim anti-aging benefits such as a more youthful complexion and cellulite reduction. Despite the positive word-of-mouth, there is little research from the United States to show the link between cryotherapy chambers and improved health.
Who Shouldn’t Use a Cryotherapy Chamber?
If you have a blood, circulatory, or heart condition, or have an allergic reaction to the cold, do not use a cryotherapy chamber. Additionally, the cryotherapy chamber is not recommended for those with a history of cancer or seizures, and those who are pregnant or lactating.
Cryotherapy chambers are now commonplace in the professional sports world to help athletes boost their performance. They are also receiving more attention from the mainstream press as celebrities sing their praises. Are you wondering if this type of cold therapy is right for you? It may be, but as with any alternative treatment, check with your doctor first before stepping into a cryotherapy chamber.