Cryotherapy: Fad or the Fountain of Youth?
Unless you live under a rock, you are aware of the newest fad in the health craze world. Cryotherapy was first developed in Japan in 1978 and used to treat arthritis, more recently it has been used by high-level athletes after intense games or workouts. Currently, in the United States it's promoted as a way to stay young, boost your immune system, and feel better. Let's take a look at some of the claims.
1) Weight loss; can stepping into an extremely cold chamber for 2 to 3 minutes really stimulate weight loss? While there may be some associated weight loss caused by the body's attempt to warm itself, this will never replace healthy nutrition and exercise.
2) Improved immune system; while there are multiple claims made regarding the benefits, there is no extensive scientific research to back this claim.
3) Pain control; athletes have iced injuries for many years with positive results. Full-body cryotherapy treats the whole body rather than limiting treatment to a single location. This treatment provides benefits such as decreased inflammation and swelling as well as a release of endorphins which can give you a feeling of euphoria. Several studies have been done comparing ice baths to cryotherapy and there appears to be better cold penetration with ice baths.
4) Contraindications; people with a history of high blood pressure, vascular disease, asthma, blood clots, or women that are pregnant should avoid this treatment.
5) Bottom line; this treatment appears to have benefits for athletes post workout and may give some a sense of euphoria. As long as you don't have any of the above contraindications there is little risk with questionable benefit.