Sunday, February 25, 2024

How Cold Therapy Works: An Introduction


Cryotherapy, as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is a medical procedure that entails “super-cooling” the body for therapeutic reasons. Advocates of this treatment method assert that it helps alleviate a variety of ailments, such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, sleeplessness, and depression. 

You might have seen fitness enthusiasts or pros brag about the trend’s benefits for muscle rehabilitation. Commonly on TikTok, Instagram, and other websites. According to the FDA, there are other ways to get this cold therapy. Such as submerging yourself in a freezing lake, putting an ice pack on your skin. Or sitting or standing in a chamber that has a temperature to around minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

How the Body Reacts to Cryotherapy?

Vasoconstriction, the body’s reaction to being exposed to low temperatures. This causes your blood vessels to narrow, pushing all of your blood toward your organs. As a result, the blood becomes more nutrient-rich and absorbs more oxygen, according to Gregg Larivee, a chiropractor and the founder and CEO of the Integrated Medical Centre in Jupiter, Florida.

According to research published in August 2018 in the Journal of Athletic Training, your blood vessels dilate (also known as vasodilate) as soon as you step outside and begin to warm up again. According to Dr. Larivee, as blood vessels widen, oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood returns to your tissues, assisting in the removal of inflammation.

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An article that was published in December 2019 in Nature Medicine. It states that inflammation is the primary cause of several health issues, including arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and painful muscles. Thus, some patients may benefit from suggested treatments that suppress inflammation, such as cryotherapy.

Types of Cryoprotection

There are several kinds of cryotherapy.

Whole Body

In whole-body cryotherapy or WBC, patients sit or stand in a tiny, small space that has a chilling temeprature with liquid nitrogen, called a cryo-chamber. The FDA states that the extreme cold, which normally falls between – 200 and minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit, is applied to the entire body, including the head. The exposure duration is brief, usually two to four minutes because the air is so chilly.

Reciprocal Cryotherapy

WBC and PBC are identical, with the exception that you stand in an open-air chamber the size of a single person. According to the FDA, with this arrangement, your head is at ambient temperature while your body and legs completely encase in the freezing chamber.

Immersion in Cold Water

According to a review, cold-water immersion is immersing oneself—apart from the head and neck—in water that is colder than 59 degrees Fahrenheit. This treatment method is frequently applicable to treat post-exercise muscular pain.

Use of Ice

One of the first things to do while treating acute injuries including fractures, sprains, and strains is to apply ice. The American Academy of Paediatrics states that using ice packs, taking an ice bath, or getting an ice massage can help reduce pain, edema, and inflammation in the damaged region.

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, this minimally invasive procedure, often referred to as cryosurgery, is used to treat many malignancies, including prostate, cervical, and liver cancer, as well as skin disorders like warts and skin tags. Extreme cold is useful by a physician to freeze and remove aberrant tissue. Only licensed healthcare experts can undertake this medical or surgical operation in clinics or surgical centers.

Potential Health Advantages of Therapy

While cryotherapy has several documented applications, there isn’t much definitive research that has been published about its usage as a supplemental therapy. Here are a few areas where theoretical benefits are being discovered by researchers.

Could Promote Muscle Healing

Cryotherapy is frequently common for post-exercise rehabilitation. Studies on athletes and patients engaging in high-intensity exercise indicate that this may have some validity. The results imply that WBC may be a more effective healing strategy than other approaches. Mainly for reducing inflammation and muscle damage.

However because the study was modest, further investigation is important to properly comprehend the connection between cold treatment and sports. However, other minor trials discovered that WBC improved post-exercise recovery and reduced muscular soreness and inflammation.

Potential Pain Relief

The numbing and anti-inflammatory properties of cryotherapy may help those with persistent pain. Cryotherapy may be a simple, low-risk treatment for chronic pain brought on by conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disease of the spine.

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For several of the participants in the experiments, applying cold or WBC helped relieve their discomfort. Standardized methods and long-term cryotherapy benefits on chronic pain, however, are not well studied.

Might Enhance Sleep

The authors of the research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research not only measured the amount of muscle recovered after exercise but also collected data on how well runners slept following cryotherapy. Summer cooling gel pad provider discovered that, in comparison to other kinds of cryotherapy, runners reported higher-quality sleep following WBC.

Furthermore, active males who got WBC after an evening workout reported far better sleep and tossing and turning less during the night, according to a July 2019 research published by an Office chair gel pad cushion supplier.

Handle Specific Cancers

Healthcare professionals may use very cold (liquid nitrogen) to freeze tumor cells on the exterior or within the body using a particular cryotherapy procedure called cryoablation. It is carried out surgically, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A tiny skin incision is made by a doctor to implant a cryoprobe, equipment that uses a sprayer to apply cold therapy.

Tumor cells perish as a result of the intense cold freezing of the targeted tissue. According to a study article, cryoablation is frequently useful to treat liver cancer, prostate cancer, and bone tumors.

Handle Specific Skin Conditions

Another popular method for treating skin lesions is cryotherapy. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre states that these lesions may be superficially malignant (skin cancer that is on the skin’s surface), precancerous, or benign (not cancerous). According to the Cleveland Clinic, the frozen skin bursts and peels off. Thus, allowing healthy new skin to form in its place.

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