Over the last few years cold therapy, formally known as cryotherapy, has become exceedingly popular due to its vast benefits including improving overall health and even for its aesthetic benefits. While cryotherapy can be administered to the whole body as is the case with cryotherapy chambers, it can also be applied locally. But what is localized cryotherapy and what benefits does this novel treatment provide?

What Is Localized Cryotherapy?

Localized cryotherapy is used to treat specific areas of the body. While there are several types of cryotherapy including CoolSculpting and Cryoskin, this article will focus on nitrogen-based therapies. Individuals who get localized cryotherapy with nitrogen are subjected to temperatures ranging from negative 240 degrees to negative 256 degrees via nitrogen gas for 5-10 minutes per location. While whole-body cryotherapy is often used for addressing general inflammation in the body, localized cryotherapy works more like a spot treatment that focuses on specific areas of the body which suffer from pain.

Benefits Of Cryotherapy

Localized cryotherapy is used to minimize pain and inflammation, promote healing, treat wounds and swelling, and for skin rejuvenation. Below we will dive into some of the benefits in more detail.

Treats Skin Conditions Like Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that presents with dry and itchy skin. Since cryotherapy has been shown to improve antioxidant levels in the blood in addition to reducing inflammation, both whole-body cryotherapy and localized cryotherapy can help treat atopic dermatitis. A study with mice looked at the benefits of cryotherapy for acne targeting the sebaceous glands. While more research needs to be conducted, the initial results look promising. A Finnish study swapped out the typical medication for eczema and replaced it with cryotherapy. Many of the study’s participants saw a great improvement in their symptoms. Localized cryotherapy has also been shown to be effective at improving other inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and rosacea, although frequent treatments are required to sustain the benefits.

Localized Cryotherapy Delivers Cosmetic Benefits

Localized cryotherapy, as in the case with devices like CoolSculpting and the like, have been shown to reduce the appearance of cellulite and promote tighter, smoother skin due to its ability to stimulate the body to naturally produce more collagen. Pores in the skin are also shrunk due to localized cryotherapy’s ability to make the blood vessels contract. Once the skin goes back to its normal temperature the vessels dilate quickly, which creates an increase of blood and oxygen to the skin that makes it look more youthful and vibrant.

Cryotherapy Is Beneficial For Maxillofacial Pain & Headaches

As we stated above, localized cryotherapy stimulates the release of hormones including jumps in endorphins, adrenaline, and norepinephrine production. Because of these hormone upticks, cryotherapy can be beneficial for maxillofacial pain and headaches since these hormones are directly related to sleep and relaxation. One study showed that endorphins activate the body’s opiate receptors that relieve pain and improve sleep, while norepinephrine acts as a mild sedative that helps the body relax and sleep more restfully. Another study concluded that localized cryotherapy helps to alleviate chronic migraines.

Pain Relief

One of the most popular reasons individuals seek localized cryotherapy is to alleviate inflammation, aches, and pains in the body. Cryotherapy’s effectiveness for pain management can be attributed to the fact that the treatment stimulates collagen production, which is the main structural protein found in the skin and connective tissues. Furthermore, collagen improves skin elasticity and is the main protein the body uses to repair muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments. The vaporized nitrogen used in the localized cryotherapy treatment also promotes vasoconstriction, which is the constriction of blood vessels that further aids in the healing process. Localized cryotherapy also quickens athletic recovery time as well as surgical recovery time, in addition to offering relief for general soreness, sprains, and strains.

What Are The Risks And Side Effects Of Localized Cryotherapy?

While localized cryotherapy is considered a safe treatment option, like anything, there can be some side effects and risks. The most common side effects are redness, tingling, irritation, and numbness at the treatment site, although these side effects are typically temporary. Those who suffer from diabetes or any other condition that affects the health of the nerves should avoid cryotherapy altogether due to their inability to feel the treatment, which could lead to further nerve damage.

Bottom Line

Cryotherapy (whether it is localized or whole-body) has plenty of anecdotal evidence in addition to a growing body of clinical research supporting its benefits. While cryotherapy is still being researched, talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether this treatment option is appropriate for you.
For more detailed information about Cryotherapy, sign-up for our science-based review, Cryotherapy for Beauty by Susanne Schmaling, founder of The Esthetics Council.