WHAT IS CRYOTHERAPY?
Cryotherapy, or cryogenic therapy, is any form of treatment using freezing or near-freezing temperatures. This can include cryosurgery, or cryoablation, where liquid nitrogen is applied locally to treat abnormal cells (such as tumors or cancerous cells). Small-scale cryotherapy can include ice bath immersion or cryotherapy facials.
Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) involves sitting or standing in a “cryochamber” for two to five minutes. During this process, a person will expose his or her body to liquid nitrogen in subzero temperatures. Patients are required to wear minimal clothing in the chamber, which can only include things like socks, gloves, approved underwear and possibly a headband and a mask to protect the ears, nose and mouth.
Ice baths have been around for awhile. Athletes most commonly use ice baths as part of their post workout regime. What are the benefits of cold plunging after workouts or games?
Reduces Inflammation – Ice baths may help reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels and reducing the flow of blood to the area. This can help reduce pain and swelling from workouts and strenuous physical activities.
Reduces Swelling – for similar seasons as inflammation, when blood flow is restricted from the blood vessels surrounding the sore or injured body part, it forces the blood back to the organs and out of the extremities reducing the amount of pressure in the area.
Reduces Muscle Soreness – Muscle soreness is common after exercise. Muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in the muscle that occur during exercise which is part of the process that helps muscles to grow stronger. However, they can cause pain and discomfort. Ice baths may help to reduce muscle soreness by numbing the area and reducing inflammation.
These are just to name a few.
The million dollar question – do ice baths really work? There is a large amount of evidence that suggests that ice baths can be beneficial for post-workout recovery. The top three areas where athletes are seeing results are:
- They facilitate recovery
- Athletes experience decreased soreness
- They help to reduce the risk of injury
What about the cons? Are there risks of cold plunging?
As with all things, there are some risks associated with ice bathing but these are minimal. The most important thing to remember is to consider consulting with your doctor before jumping into an ice bath or starting a cold plunging routine. Here are a few documented risks:
Cold injuries: Sitting in cold water for too long can lead to cold injuries such as frostbite or hypothermia. This is why it’s important to make sure that the water temperature is not too low (39 degrees is plenty cold!) and to get out of the tub if you start to feel pain or extreme discomfort. Stick to the 10-minute max rule.
Dizziness: Sitting in an ice bath can cause blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to dizziness. It is important to get out of the tub if you start to feel dizzy at any point.
I’m getting ready to finally try Work Out West’s Cold Plunge tub in a couple of days – which Sean and I are referring to as “Freeze Day” instead of Friday. I’ll report back about my experience!