Cryotherapy and the Current Research

What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy (cold therapy) includes:

  • Cold Water Immersion (CWI) - Ice baths

  • Whole Body Cryotherapy - Ice chambers

  • Local Icing - Ice packs

Research suggests cold can be used for therapeutic purposes as a means of accelerating recovery after strenuous exercise. Many top-level athletes, coaches, and practitioners have adopted Cryotherapy as a potentially beneficial adjuvant to training. Whilst cold water immersion (CWI) requires little equipment or specialist instruction (you can use your bath), whole body cryotherapy (WBC) has been marketed as an alternative.

What are the differences?

CWI - Cold water immersion is the process of immersing the body in a cold water (≤59˚F) bath or plunge pool for up to 10 minutes immediately after exercise. It attempts to enhance the recovery process for muscles and provides camaraderie (team building) if done in a group.

WBC - Whole body cryotherapy is an enclosed chamber that surrounds the body with the head exposed. It drops to below -200°F for up to 4 minutes.

Local Icing utilizes the placement of ice packs to reduce swelling in specific areas of the body.

What are the benefits of cold therapy?

Cold may be useful in limiting swelling and decreasing pain in the short term. Its benefits may also include deeper sleep, increased metabolism, and stress reduction. Although cold treatments may make you feel better, it doesn't necessarily mean your muscles adapt or heal quicker. Lifting needs to occur reasonably often to see the benefits of supplemental recovery treatments.

What are the risks of cold therapy?

The evidence to suggest Cryotherapy improves clinical outcomes of soft tissue injuries is limited and may even delay healing. New research proposes short-term, focused inflammation is a necessary component of proper healing. We've known for some time that ice serves to reduce pain and swelling. We also know that cold causes blood vessels to constrict. However, the unwanted side effect of this constriction is that inflammatory cells and their healing hormones are prevented from getting to the injured tissues.

Its risks may also include:

  • Poor circulation

  • Skin burns and irritation

  • Hypothermia

  • Exacerbating pre-existing risk factors (High blood pressure, cardiovascular issues)

There is also a lack of research regarding females or elite athletes. However, remember a lack of evidence is not proof of ineffectiveness. Cryotherapy is a new treatment with potentially beneficial outcomes.

Is Cold therapy for you?

As long as you recognize that the research proving cryotherapy recovery claims are lacking and you don't experience any adverse effects, then cold treatment may be for you.

If you find cold therapy reduces your soreness after an intense workout and increases recovery time towards the gym, then it may be a practice you can utilize.

Please talk to your Apeiron Life specialist if you plan to try cold therapy to make sure it's the correct fit for you.

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