Cryotherapy treatments by Dr ClaytonHave you ever placed a cold pack on a bruised body part or aching one and immediately feel some relief from it? Beside the cool sensation, the affected area also feels somewhat more reduced and better? Take this in mind and imagine what can you do when bruising or aches occur in almost all parts of the body? It would be impossible to place a lot of cold pack or stick it right? Hence, there is a therapy that helps a person feel a similar sensation from using cold packs but in a wider coverage, known as cryotherapy.

            Cryotherapy is a technique where the body is exposed to cold temperatures for several minutes. It is a treatment or therapy that emphasises the usage of freezing or near-freezing temperatures.  Surprisingly, using ice packs or cooling sprays is considered to be part of cryotherapy although it only works on small areas. Facial cryotherapy is another form of cryotherapy that applies cold to the face. As mentioned before, cryotherapy also works for wider coverage of the body, called as the whole-body cryotherapy (WBC). From here on, we will be focusing on WBC and the 3 benefits.

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            WBC is a cryogenic therapy that exposes the body to a very cold temperature for a short time. The therapy starts with the patient using protective coverings before entering a chamber, cryotherapy booth or freezing tank.  Patient is then exposed to cold temperatures of up to negative 300 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately negative 184 degrees Celsius). The patient will be standing or sitting (depending on the chamber shape) for 2 to 5 minutes during the therapy. Below are the 3 benefits of cryotherapy that is gained by such changes to the body:

1)  Anti-inflammatory effect- Inflammation is the body response towards an injury or potential injuries such as from sports and diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. Cryotherapy helps to provide temporary relief or pain associated with inflammation, such pain or discomfort. The effect is similar to using an ice cold pack but can be greatly beneficial for those with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia. It is impossible to just use an ice cold pack or cooling spray to help reduce pain.

2)  Recovery from exercise- Beside the inflammation that may occur, exercise leads to accumulation of lactic acid leading to muscle soreness. Cryotherapy also helps to remove lactic acid and accelerate production to repair muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments caused by exercises.

3)  Better mental health- Cryotherapy helps to alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression. It also helps a person to help improve sleep quality by promoting relaxation. This helps to reduce insomnia and feeling sluggish the next morning which is associated with mood disorders. It has been stipulated that these effects are due to the extreme cold temperature triggering the hormonal body response such as the endorphins and adrenaline.

            In essence, whole-body cryotherapy does promote many health benefits both physically and mentally. However, the downside of cryotherapy is it is still not FDA approved for medical treatment. This means that there is risk of potential hazards or risk that may occur such as hypoxia, frostbite, burns, eye injuries and losing consciousness. This also means that some devices used in cryotherapy are not well regulated which creates loopholes for potential danger. If you decide to try WBC, you should talk to your healthcare provider especially if you are diagnosed with chronic medical conditions since cryotherapy may not be entirely safe. Do discuss with your healthcare providers on what to be expected from a cryotherapy to avoid disappointment or worsening of your current health condition. Last but not least, it is important to be cautious and wary of places offering cryotherapy. Do thorough research before choosing cryotherapy.

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By Alexander James

Beau Alexander James: Beau, a mental health advocate, shares personal stories, coping strategies, and promotes mental health awareness and understanding.