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Curious to Try Cryotherapy? Here’s the Deal on the Freezing Temp Treatment

Male-in-cryotherapy-chamber

Cryotherapy is a minimally invasive treatment that uses freezing temperatures to destroy damaged tissue and reduce inflammation. Stepping into an ice-cold chamber might seem futuristic, but plenty of people are already discovering the many benefits that come from it!

The global cryotherapy market was valued at $3.8 billion in 2020, and its popularity continues to grow. Today, cryotherapy is also used for therapeutic reasons and to treat certain physical conditions. 

It isn’t as sci-fi as it sounds, but can cryotherapy help you?

In this article:

What Is Cryotherapy?

Jim Karas, owner of Chicago CryoSpa, describes cryotherapy as “an ice pack on steroids.” That’s why it’s so popular with people who suffer from chronic pain — the intense cold is said to minimize inflammation from injuries and ease the recovery process. 

Using cold temperatures for healing dates back to Ancient Egypt, where doctors would use the cold to treat skin conditions. Modern cryotherapy treatments freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, often using liquid nitrogen or argon gas. Your cells can’t withstand extreme temperatures, so the cold gasses basically freeze these abnormal cells to death. It’s really not as scary as that sounds though!

You may have heard of Wim Hof, the Dutch motivational speaker nicknamed “the Iceman” due to his world record of being submerged in ice for well over an hour. Well, you don’t need to worry — this is nothing like that. The best thing about a cryotherapy treatment is that you only have to spend a few minutes in the chamber, as opposed to the six to 10 minutes you might have to spend in a traditional ice bath to get similar results.

What Does Cryotherapy Do?

A woman stepping into a cryotherapy chamber.

Although cold therapy has been used for years by athletes recovering from injuries and overworked muscles, there hasn’t been a ton of research on cryotherapy treatments. Despite that, many swear by its healing benefits. Here’s what those who took the ice plunge say:

  • It reduces skin temperature – The cryotherapy chamber causes a significant drop in surface body temperature. This may trick the brain into thinking that you’re in distress, so it responds by sending blood to your core and away from your extremities. Once you step out of the chamber, oxygenated blood is redistributed to the extremities, often resulting in a feeling of rejuvenation.
  • It constricts blood vessels – Vasoconstriction, otherwise known as restricting your blood vessels, limits blood flow to the cold-affected areas (in this case, that’s most of your body). This helps to reduce inflammation.
  • It has psychological effects – Jim confirms that many clients report feeling energized and euphoric after a cryotherapy session. It’s suggested that this release of endorphins and adrenaline may help elevate your mood.

Ready to try cryotherapy? Find great options and offers near you.

What are the benefits of cryotherapy?

While cryotherapy sessions are not approved as medical treatments by the FDA, there are some great cryotherapy benefits:

  • Helps with musculoskeletal pain – Advocates for cryotherapy say that it aids with musculoskeletal pain relief, as it may trigger cell repair.
  • Can relieve headaches Localized cryotherapy, applied to the head via a hand-operated tool, may soothe headaches.
  • Could treat mood disorders – The super cold temperatures of a whole-body cryotherapy treatment may cause a physiological hormone response, releasing adrenaline and endorphins.
  • May aid weight loss When your body sends blood rushing to your core during the treatment, your body heat increases and triggers your metabolism.
  • Might help treat low-risk tumors – Localized cryotherapy benefits may be able to help with cancer treatments, including prostate cancer, by freezing the diseased cells.
  • Could help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia – There is potential that the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative benefits of cryotherapy may help to reduce oxidative stress caused by these conditions.
  • May alleviate atopic dermatitis – The improved antioxidant levels and reduced inflammation from a cryotherapy treatment could help improve the skin condition atopic dermatitis.

How Does Cryotherapy Work?

If you’re now considering facing the cold for the potentially brilliant health benefits of cryotherapy, here’s everything you need to know before you take the plunge and go into full freeze mode.

What should I expect from my first cryotherapy session?

Brace yourself. It’s going to get really cold. Favin, a Groupon beauty blogger, described her treatment experience at Jim Karas’ Chicago CryoSpa:

“My skin was covered in giant goosebumps, but they faded as soon as I jumped on a stationary bike. The pedaling helped blood to flow back into my limbs and warmed me up within a minute or so.”

Whilst in the chamber, Favin says it was hard for her to focus on anything but the cold, but as soon as she stepped out, she felt “instant relief.” When she warmed up, she experienced a rush of energy from the adrenaline coursing through her body. This rush of adrenaline is said to be common after a cryotherapy treatment.

Before

Do your research. It’s worthwhile booking a consultation to discuss your problem areas with your clinician to find the right treatment for you.

It’s recommended to get into a cryosauna two to three times per week for three weeks when first embarking on your cryotherapy treatment. This will help your body build up to its full metabolic response to the extreme temperatures.

During

  1. Get ready – Your physician will ask you to get changed. Men are required to wear close-fitting shorts and women can either be naked or wear shorts and a sports bra. It’s important that everyone wear gloves and socks to protect their fingers and toes. Frostbite isn’t fun!
  2. Enter the chamber – Under careful supervision, you’ll step inside the cylindrical chamber. It’ll be about as tall as your shoulders, so your head and neck will be exposed. Your body will be bathed in liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air. This can get as cold as -250 degrees Fahrenheit. Who needs to trek to the Arctic to experience all the fun?
  3. Stay submerged – You’ll stay in the cold for two to four minutes, depending on how experienced you are with the therapy. The short duration keeps your body’s core temperature at a normal level, even while your skin-surface temperature drops.

After

After your cryotherapy treatment, be sure to drink lots of water to help your body temperature stabilize. Depending on which type of treatment you chose, the aftercare can vary. Localized cryotherapy can often be left uncovered to heal naturally over a few weeks. Make sure to not pick the treated area and wear high factor sunscreen.

Then, book your next treatment! The more sessions of cryotherapy you have, the better.

How long does cryotherapy take?

The type of cryotherapy affects the duration of treatment. Whole-body sessions last around three minutes, localized can take between five and 10 minutes, and a cryotherapy facial can last 30 minutes.

Although it’s possible to reap great results after one cryotherapy treatment, the full benefits usually come into effect after multiple sessions.

How Much Does Cryotherapy Cost? Plus, Other Things You Need to Know

A man in a cryotherapy chamber.

Before you tackle the ice, make sure you’ve got your facts right. It’s worth knowing the cost, duration and frequency you’ll be needing your cryotherapy treatments before you take off into the deep end.

How much does cryotherapy cost?

A single session of cryotherapy treatment typically costs between $60 and $100. In Chicago and L.A., cryotherapy tends to be closer to $60 (it’s $65 per session at Jim’s place), whereas in New York, it tends to be closer to $100. However, Groupon deals can help you cut this price in half.

A top tip to save money on cryotherapy is to opt for a package of treatments or get a monthly membership that offers special pricing for repeat visitors.

How long do the effects of cryotherapy last for?

After leaving the chamber, you may immediately feel rejuvenated as adrenaline surges through your body. These energizing effects could last up to eight hours. With maintenance sessions, results could last months, or even years, depending on your lifestyle and diet.

How often should you do cryotherapy?

Great results could be seen after just one session, but the best results are said to come from repeated treatments. Whole-body, localized and facial cryotherapy can be safely performed twice a day.

Cryotherapy vs. CoolSculpting — What’s the Difference?

CoolSculpting is another noninvasive and nonsurgical medical treatment which aims to remove extra fat cells underneath the skin using cryolipolysis. The fat is frozen between two panels and, once dead, the cells are discharged from the body through the liver. (It’s not as weird as it sounds, we promise.)

CoolSculpting is said to reduce the appearance of cellulite and can be used on your legs, back, buttocks, belly and arms.

The main similarity between cryotherapy and CoolSculpting is — you’ve guessed it — both are pretty cold. But, although they both utilize freezing temperatures, they’re very different treatments with different benefits.

Where cryotherapy typically takes under 10 minutes for whole-body and localized treatments, CoolSculpting can take up to an hour to treat each area.

If you’re looking for a treatment to help you lose weight, CoolSculpting is your winner. Although cryotherapy can boost your metabolism, CoolSculpting is primarily focused on freezing and removing fat from your body.

Top Tips

  • How to speed up healing after cryotherapy Use cold soap and water on the exposed area and drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.
  • Make sure you’re suitable for cryotherapy treatment – Those with larger frames that make it difficult to fit in the chamber are not suitable for this treatment, as your body must not touch the interior walls. Cryotherapy is also not recommended for people with severe blood pressure or heart problems.
  • Consider other noninvasive treatments for weight loss – Ultrasonic cavitation is a treatment utilizing sound waves to flush fat out of the body. It uses heat and vibrations as opposed to the freezing temperatures of cryotherapy and CoolSculpting.

FAQs

Close-up of someone opening the door to a cryotherapy chamber.

What is cryotherapy used for?

Cryotherapy is used to minimize inflammation, ease muscle pain and treat some skin conditions. Other reported cryotherapy benefits include possible physiological improvements.

What is the cryotherapy temperature?

Inside the cylindrical chamber, immersed in liquid nitrogen or cold air, the temperature can fall to -250 degrees Fahrenheit. Just go to your warm happy place!

Are there different types of cryotherapy?

Yes. Localized cryotherapy can be used to target specific areas, whole-body cryotherapy can help with muscle pain, and facial cryotherapy may improve ailments on the face.

Does cryotherapy burn fat?

Cryotherapy does not burn fat directly. However, the way your body reacts whilst in the chamber could raise your metabolism and encourage your body to lose weight.

What are the cryotherapy side effects?

Cryotherapy is considered safe but bear in mind that all medical procedures carry a certain element of risk. Cryotherapy risks include slight redness, blistering and swelling on the surface of the treated skin. In very rare circumstances, there is a risk of bleeding.

The more severe side effects are very rare and, as long as you do your research, you can rest assured knowing you’re in the safe hands of a professional. But, as always, please talk to your doctor before starting any treatments.

Do you suffer from muscle pain, skin ailments or physiological conditions? Why not take the plunge with cryotherapy? Find great options and offers near you.

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