Cryotherapy – What is it and Why

Cryotherapy for health purposes. What is cryotherapy and is it worth it? Well, cryotherapy could mean many different things. Effectively it’s any kind of cold therapy. That could be cold showers, cold baths, ice packs, walking in the snow, standing in a big freezer. Cryo just means cold – taken from the Greek word cryos which means cold. 

In the context of this blog and video below, cryotherapy typically relates to specialised units that cool the air around the body to very cold temperatures. Typically around -130 degrees centigrade. This does though depend on whether the cryo chamber covers the whole body – including the head, or not. Either way, it’s usually referred to as Whole Body Cryotherapy. 

What is it?

So what is it exactly? Simply put, it’s like standing in a big freezer, but this is dedicated for humans! You spend around 3 minutes as the air around you is gently and rapidly cooled to -130 degrees centigrade. Or thereabouts. If it’s your first time, they might suggest just two minutes. I’ve done it a few times now. Mostly in the machines that expose the head, but I once tested the full body cryo chamber for 1.5 minutes. 

I do hot/cold showers (although I’ve never done ice bath) but feel that standing in the cryotherapy chamber for 3 minutes is easier than 30 seconds in a cold shower! Maybe it’s because I’m paying for it, or maybe it’s because it’s not water that is enveloping you. Rather they tend to use liquid nitrogen and refrigerated cold air. 

Why use it?

Well, for me it’s about inflammation. It’s been reported that it helps with inflammation. Something common to many, especially if you have injuries, play sports, eat poor quality diet, have stress – basically everyone probably has way more inflammation in them than they should. 

I’ve had my fair share of injuries and found that by doing the cryotherapy the inflammation feels much better. I.e. the injury sites move more freely. 

I have also personally noticed an objectively better quality sleep and waking up feeling more rested and ready for the day. I track this via my Oura ring. A dedicated sleep (and activity – although mainly sleep) tracker. A pricey piece of kit, but if you are into health and wellness, it’s good to track certain parameters. What you can’t measure, you can’t manage. And sleep affects every aspect of life – productivity, health, energy levels, hunger and on and on. So nailing that aspect is crucial for optimal health and energy. If you don’t want to splurge on an Oura ring – and I don’t recommend as a first port of call for beginners, and just want tactics to improve sleep, then check out my course on sleep. You’ll be able to subjectively notice changes as you follow my advice there. Afterwards it’s the little tweaks that you want data to show what works and what doesn’t.

Anyway, I digress. Cryotherapy, in my limited experience has helped with inflammation, old injuries, and sleep. It’s supposed to be good for arthritis (makes sense, as anything with -itis at the end means inflammation) and other conditions. I think that the research on whole body cryotherapy is a little scant, to say the least. So it’s definitely a proceed at your own caution activity. 

That said, it’s been okay for the people I’ve spoken to about it, and many professional sports teams are using it. Of course, they are also using ice baths too! This just seems more pleasant to me. 

Should you check it out?

Perhaps read up a little more, and if you can find a place, especially if you have something you can objectively, or at least subjectively notice a difference in, then sure. If you have a swollen ankle, or injury that is affecting you, like arthritis I would certainly look into it. 

Of course, it’s not a panacea, and also would require regular use I imagine to have long lasting affects. I’ll be going again soon though as I have inflammation in my knee due to surgery recently, so once the broken skin has healed up from the surgery, I’ll be giving it another go. 

What do you think? Have you tried it? Let me know.

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