Due to its health and wellbeing benefits, one of the buzziest health fads that currently seems to be taking hold with celebrities and fitness enthusiasts alike is cryotherapy. Harry Styles, Jennifer Aniston, Will Smith, and Alicia Keys are just some of the celebrities touting the benefits of this novel therapy. But what is cryotherapy and what are the benefits of this unique treatment?

What Is Cryotherapy?

In its simplest terms, cryotherapy is “cold therapy”, where the whole body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures ranging from negative 200° to 300°F for several minutes for therapeutic purposes. While there are many ways to deliver cold therapy like ice baths, ice packs, and even administered with probes in the body’s tissue, the whole body treatment typically takes place in a unique chamber known as a “cryo chamber.”

What Happens In The Cryo Chamber?

When it comes to whole-body cryotherapy, the theory is that by exposing the body to extremely cold air for two to four minutes, it sets off a variety of neurological, endocrine, and immune regulatory functions in the body.

To prevent hypothermia, the body draws blood from the skin surface and directs it to protect the body’s vital organs. Once in the chamber, the endocrine system releases endorphins and noradrenalin, hormones that contribute to the reduction of cortisol levels and stress. Once a user steps out of the chamber, the warm oxygenated blood returns to the skeletal muscles and helps to reduce inflammation, which is why cryotherapy helps with recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

What Are Some Of The Benefits Of Cryotherapy?

Benefits can be achieved after one cryotherapy session, but it is even more effective when used regularly. So, what exactly are some of the benefits of cold therapy?

  • Reduces Arthritis Pain: One study concluded that whole-body cryotherapy significantly reduced pain in people who suffer from arthritis. Cryotherapy was well tolerated by the study’s participants and it was determined that this novel treatment allowed for more aggressive physical and occupational therapy treatments to be more effective.

  • May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia: While more research needs to be done to determine the efficacy, Cryotherapy is thought to be an effective treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease because cold therapy can help combat the inflammatory response and oxidative stress these diseases can cause in people.

  • Treats Atopic Dermatitis And Other Skin Conditions: Since cryotherapy can improve antioxidant levels in the blood and help reduce inflammation, both the whole-body cryotherapy treatment as well as the localized form of the treatment can help treat atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin condition that presents with dry and itchy skin. Another study in mice examined cryotherapy as a treatment for acne.

  • Can Help With Mood Disorders: As we stated above, whole-body cryotherapy creates a cascade of physiological responses in the body including the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and endorphins, which is why this treatment can be effective at treating short-term depression and anxiety.

Side Effects Of Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is generally considered to be a safe treatment. However, there are some common side effects as a result of the treatment including redness, tingling, numbness, and irritation to the skin, although these are typically temporary.

Whole-body cryotherapy should never be done more than the recommended time, which is typically three minutes. For localized treatments with ice packs, make sure the ice packs are wrapped in a towel so the skin doesn’t get damaged from the cold and are not done for more than twenty minutes. Individuals with any kind of nerve condition including diabetes should avoid cryotherapy since these individuals may not be able to feel the effects of the treatment and that could lead to further nerve damage.

Bottom Line

There are plenty of people out there who are touting the benefits of cryotherapy. While there is some evidence that points to its health benefits, whole body cryotherapy is still being researched.
For more detailed information about Cryotherapy, sign-up for our science-based review, Cryotherapy for Beauty by Susanne Schmaling, founder of The Esthetics Council.