Have you ever hurt your ankle or smashed your thumb and put an ice pack it? Then you already have experience with cryotherapy. You and many others who might not even realize it. Cryotherapy is quite literally cold therapy. In the dead of winter, here in Green bay in you can go out and experience some cold therapy right outside for free or you can go to one of many cryotherapy centers popping up everywhere. I frequently get asked, “is cryotherapy helpful or all a bunch of hype?” Yes, and yes. Let’s talk about it a bit more about what cold therapy can do (and can’t do).
So, there are different methods of cryotherapy. It can mean an icepack, cold shower, ice bath, or whole-body cryotherapy that happens at cryotherapy and wellness centers. These centers are quick and easy as they expose your body to temperatures ranging from -200 degrees to -300 degrees in a short time. You can enjoy the common benefits with this method that is quick and much easier than filling a bathtub with ice to sit in. So, I often use these centers in the summer to get some of the common benefits of cold therapy. Because, like many common therapies, it can help support the body.
Potential Benefits of Cryotherapy
- Stimulates Lymphatic System
- Improves Skin and Increases Collagen
- Increases Certain Immune Cells
- Boosts Your Mood and Feels Rejuvenating
- Relieves Itchy Skin
- Increases Circulation
- Supports Metabolism
The cold exposure causes your body to respond in ways that can be very beneficial in a variety of ways. When you experience extreme cold your body responds by constricting blood vessels and bringing all of your blood to vital organs. This increases circulation as your heart pumps harder. Cold exposure also causes the lymph nodes to contract or squeeze which helps to move toxicity through the body very quickly. This makes cold therapy detoxifying, which is supportive of the body and helps your skin. Cold therapy also increases nutrients to the skin and boosts collagen production. It can also kickstart the thyroid and metabolism.
Cold Therapy and Inflammation
But wait doc, your forgot one more potential benefit – it reduces inflammation. Many people talk about how cryotherapy reduces inflammation. If it does, it’s not going to for long. Why do you have inflammation? Too many of us have inflammation but aren’t addressing the causes.
If you don’t find the triggers, then it’s similar to other therapies that can reduce inflammation. Once you stop the therapy your body will just return to the inflamed state. Sure, I’m a fan of cryotherapy but also other therapies like massage, vibe plates, and essential oils. But when applying natural therapies to inflammation you fall into the same thinking that keeps many people sick. Inflammation is the body’s way of healing, so inflammation is a sign something more is going on.
Smash your finger with a hammer and ice will help reduce the swelling. Keep smashing your finger every day and no matter how much ice you use, you are going to cause permanent damage. Any therapy is great that can support the body for a short time to give you time to figure out what’s going on. Therapies are short term until you find the cause of the inflammation. You have to remove the causes of the inflammation or it could lead to further problems.
Even when you are icing right after exercise or injury, it can actually inhibit the healing process. Inflammation is a part of the healing process. So, yes, cold therapy can reduce inflammation but if you are experiencing chronic inflammation then it is time to find out the causes. And when I hear claims that cryotherapy can treat illnesses that come from chronic inflammation, then I call it hype and taking advantage of an increasingly sick, inflamed population.
Does Cryotherapy Help?
Does Cryotherapy help? It depends on what you are trying to do. If you want to support your body and feel rejuvenated, then you might find cryotherapy beneficial like I have. I’m a fan of cryotherapy but also other therapies like massage, vibe plates, essential oils and the sauna. In fact, I love to use the sauna and then do cold therapy. They go great together! I like to go from hot to cold, back to hot, then cold again. It’s great for detoxifying and your skin will feel great.
So, the potential benefits of cryotherapy are something to take advantage of but be aware of how you are using it to support your body and don’t fall into the hype.
Written by Dr. Patrick Flynn
Learn more about the benefits of infrared sauna in this video with Dr. Patrick Flynn: