Cryogenic therapy, also called cryotherapy, refers to applying low temperatures to the body (either generally or locally) with a medical purpose. The etymology of the word can be traced back to Greek, from cryo, which means cold, and therapy, which means cure. Cryogenic therapy has been used starting with the 17th century.
Most of the times, people use the term to refer to the surgical treatment, which is called, in fact, cryosurgery or cryoablation.
What Is Cryogenic Therapy?
The modern version of cryogenic therapy has been developed in Japan in 1978. The scientists there intended to use it for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Ever since then, people in Europe have been studying the benefits of this new therapy as well. Currently, it is being used in the United States as well, and it seems that there are plenty of good reviews for it.
How Does Cryogenic Therapy Work?
Basically, cryotherapy is a hyper-cooling process. The procedure lowers the skin temperature down to around 30° F for a maximum period of 3 minutes. The body gets enveloped by extremely cold air, with temperatures going from -100° F to -274° F. To achieve these low temperatures, people at the specialized centers use liquid nitrogen, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.
During the therapy, the thermoreceptors found in the skin ask the brain to send more blood to the core. This is done for maintaining body temperature through vasoconstriction. The low temperature helps the body flush toxins from the peripheral tissues. Therefore, the blood becomes rich in enzymes, nutrients, and oxygen. Consequently, this activates all the natural healing capacities of the bodies. The brain also releases endorphins, which is why people feel happy and well after they undergo this type of therapy.
When the body warms up again, the blood, which went through the enrichment process, flows back all throughout the body. The process wears the name of vasodilatation. For this reason, cryogenic therapy is used for enhancing the overall health and wellness, athletic recovery, reducing chronic pain, repairing the muscles or reducing inflammation.
Types of Cryotherapy
There are, in fact, two types of cryogenic therapy: namely whole-body cooling and partial body cooling. Besides the two of them, there is also the ice pack therapy, which we will explain first.
Ice Pack Therapy
This type refers to treating an injured area of the body with ice packs. It’s very popular in sports, as well as in other fields. Even though everybody agrees on the alleviating effects, there is an ongoing debate about its efficacy.
Simply put, people place ice packs on the injured area with the purpose of absorbing heat. This is achieved through conduction and transferring thermal energy to and from an edematous injury, for instance. Just as explained above, when they use cold temperatures, vasoconstriction appears immediately, followed by vasodilation. The local metabolism decreases, as well as the enzymatic activity and the oxygen need.
The cold helps decrease the activity of the muscle fiber, as well as slowing down the nerve conduction. For this reason, people use it for decreasing spasticity. It is helpful in alleviating minor injuries, such as muscle soreness. However, you shouldn’t use it for rehabilitation or performance, since it has adverse effects: decreased balance for 20 minutes, decreased myotatic reflex, as well as force production.
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC)
The whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is another option besides ice packs or cold water immersion. However, the scientific data obtained until now does not show this type would be better than the rest. WBC consists in exposing people to a very cold dry air, even less than – 100° C. The exposure period lasts between 2 and 4 minutes.
Liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air are the most common methods for cooling down the air. When exposed, people need to wear some minimal clothing, such as shorts for men and shorts plus a crop top for women. Dry shoes and socks, as well as headbands and masks for the mouth and nose, are the requirements to prevent injuries.
Partial Body Cryotherapy (PBC)
Another name for the PBC camera is cryosauna or cryogenic chamber. The chamber keeps the patient’s head outside and thus they won’t feel affected by the cold air. They exist all throughout the U.S., and people inaccurately call them WBC.
However, the cryogenic chamber therapy differs from the WBC in that the chamber receives an injection with evaporated liquid nitrogen. The big concern here is the adverse effects. More precisely, the procedure of evaporating liquid nitrogen presents the risk of frostbite or inert gas asphyxiation.
How Effective Is It?
Being quite a new type of therapy, there aren’t any studies to show the long-term effects of cryogenic therapy. Many people reported to be happy about the immediate effects of the cold air exposure, but nobody knows for now if it is indeed capable of permanently healing or treating diseases.
There are plenty of cryogenic chamber therapy locations you can find all throughout the country. The prices can vary from a place to another, according to the plan you want to use. Of course, you can pay for a single session, which costs around $40-$50. However, you can find offers for $50 for 2 sessions, which saves money.
A good idea to cut down on the costs is to get a membership for one of the cryotherapy clinics. For example, if you’re a member, you will have to pay $234 for a 10-session package, whereas if you don’t have a membership, you need to take out of your wallet up to $295. Some clinics even offer derived services, such as local cryotherapy facial or body.
Despite being a relatively new solution in the West, cryogenic therapy has lots of supporters. Many people claim that it has beneficial long-term effects, helping with muscle injuries, pain, as well as plenty of diseases or affections. However, not everybody should do it and those who do should benefit specialized supervision. The prices are not that high, considering the techniques and materials used for the cryotherapy machine, for example.
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