Cryotherapy or “cold therapy” refers to a broad category of treatments that includes everything from ice packs to whole body chambers that utilize evaporated liquid nitrogen. In this post we will take a closer look at one of the more popular treatments which is the cryosauna. The cryosauna is considered a partial body cryotherapy as the head is not inside the chamber. Both frostbite and gas asphyxiation are risks. The most common applications are recovery from athletics, back pain, depression and weight loss. There are a few small clinical studies that suggest that cold treatments can help with all of these scenarios. The typical treatment lasts for only three minutes. Skin temperature drops down to 33.8F (1C) during that time. The cost of a single session is normally ~$50.
Multiple studies suggest that cryotherapy has powerful mood enhancing effects. One study followed 55 subjects through 10 sessions of whole body cryotherapy (WBCT) and noticed improvements in mood and a feeling of well-being. These feelings ultimately lead to an improvement in their quality of life. The more depressed or upset the patient is the stronger the effect of the therapy. Another study that looked at depressive and anxiety orders found a 50% decrease in both anxiety and depression after three weeks of whole body cryotherapy.
A weight loss study published in 2018 targeted adipose tissue and made use of DXA scans to track progress. After six cryotherapy treatments the average fat mass was reduced by 3.8%. There were no adverse effects or inflammation from these treatments. Two groups were used composing a total of only 25 participants.
The old fashioned way to recover from a difficult workout is to apply an ice-pack. In an attempt to determine the effectiveness of whole body cryotherapy researchers had different athletes sprinting and running longer endurance distances to create exercise induced inflammation. The participants subjective data about pain, soreness and stress were all dramatically improved from the WBCT treatment. However, it is difficult to justify the expense of form of cooling over less expensive ice packs and cold water immersion.