Cryotherapy spas are popping up in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, touting crazy benefits like improved immune system and metabolic functioning. Seriously, what the heck is cryotherapy? What are the benefits? Is it safe? Does it even work? I will answer all of these burning questions and more in this article.
What is cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is the use of freezing or near-freezing temperatures. Most people do whole-body cryotherapy, where you sit or stand in a chamber that is filled with extremely cold air. Forms of cryotherapy have been used for hundreds of years, such as sitting in an ice bath to recover from physical exercise. People who have done cryotherapy say it produces a feeling of euphoria, it improves sleep the following night, and decreased resting heart rate.
Are there any risks?
Besides the discomfort, and as long as you only stay in the booth for ~3 minutes at a time and follow the proper procedures, there are very few risks. However, pregnant women, children, and those with high blood pressure or a heart condition should not use cryotherapy.
What are the supposed benefits?
According to CryoZone, benefits include increased circulation, reduced inflammation, improved skin, recovery from exercise, and better sleep. Cryotherapy supporters boast benefits such as improved immune system functioning, increased energy and metabolism, improved mood and mental health, treatment for migraines, and even prevention for Alzheimer’s disease.
Does research back it up?
Overall, research is mixed. There are studies that report solid mental and physical benefits, but others that show only subjective benefits. There are no negative side effects, just a lack of concrete evidence for positive effects. The strongest evidence supports muscle pain relief and reduced inflammation. When your body is exposed to extreme cold, endorphins are released, creating a euphoric feeling. This could explain the anecdotal evidence supporting improved mood and mental health.
Whole-body cryotherapy using a chamber pumped full of -200 degree air is a fairly new phenomenon, so be aware that research on long-term benefits is limited. However, since there are only mild risks involved, I would recommend giving it a try so you can see how it affects you.