Cryotherapy. Have you heard of it? While cryotherapy was created in Japan in 1978 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, it seems to be a new trend in the United States, popular among athletes and others, claiming that standing in a huge chamber in below freezing temperatures can have a few health benefits.
What is Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC)?
“Cryo” comes from the Greek word “krous”, which means icy. So, it must have to do with something cold. Simply put, cryotherapy is the “super-cooling” of the body for therapeutic purposes. You can go solo or stand in a multi-person cryochamber with varying temperatures dropping below -300 degrees Fahrenheit that freezes your body. People must wear a mask, socks, booties and underwear. The cryochamber uses a gaseous form of nitrogen to lower the client’s skin surface temperature by 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit over a period of two to four minutes. The Cryochamber is cooled using liquid nitrogen but clients are not in direct contact with the gas. The skin reacts to the cold and sends messages to the brain that acts as a stimulant to the regulatory functions of the body. It produces the scanning of all areas that may not be working to their fullest potential. The skin exposure to the extreme temperatures also triggers the release of anti-inflammatory molecules and endorphins.
While the popularity of cryotherapy is growing like wildfire, the effects of its claims have not been proven in any of its studies. Despite claims by many spas and wellness centers to the contrary, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have evidence that WBC effectively treats diseases or conditions like Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stress, anxiety or chronic pain. Those who sell WBC machines and facilities that operate them may also claim that WBC can improve blood circulation, increase metabolism, weight loss, improve recovery and soreness after workouts, and relieve joint and body pain. What actually happens physiologically to the body when a person stays within these chambers for two to four minutes? What effects do such cold temperatures have on the blood pressure, heart rate, and metabolism? The answer is not known at this time.
Talk to Your Doctor First
If you decide to try Whole Body Cryotherapy, know that the FDA has not cleared or approved any of these devices for medical treatment of any specific medical conditions. The FDA is also concerned that patients who opt for Whole Body Cryotherapy treatment—especially in place of treatment options with established safety and effectiveness—may experience a lack of improvement or a worsening of their medical conditions.