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Cryotherapy: How the cold can benefit your health

BY Jemma Patton

31st May 2023 Wellbeing

Cryotherapy: How the cold can benefit your health

With cryotherapy, or cold therapy, rising in popularity, here’s why you should consider giving it a try

Cryotherapy, or cold therapy, is a treatment that uses extreme cold to help with a variety of health problems. A version of the treatment has existed for centuries—for example, cold water swimming or ice-cold showers, and now there’s a more sophisticated and controlled version available in spas and wellness centres, using cryotherapy chambers.

The word cryotherapy literally means “cold therapy”. Whole-body cryotherapy involves exposing the body to extremely cold air. Cryotherapy chambers are small rooms or pods which are cooled uniformly and reduce the temperature of the skin to 5°C as quickly as possible.

So, think jumping in the cold sea rather than dipping your toe in and acclimatising first. Gloves and shoes are provided, but other than that it’s recommended that ladies wear shorts and a sports bra, and men wear shorts.

How does cryotherapy work?

The required temperature for treatment is between -80°C and -140°C, and the average amount of time spent at this temperature is generally between two and five minutes, but timings will be carefully monitored.

"Cryotherapy triggers the release of endorphins which benefit the whole body and effects can last for weeks"

The treatment works by cooling the entire surface of the skin, which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. This means that the blood flow to the skin’s surface is redirected to the vital organs in order to protect their temperature. This process triggers the release of endorphins which benefit the whole body. The skin cooling only lasts a few minutes, but the effect of the endorphins can last for weeks.

What can cryotherapy help with?

Woman entering cryotherapy chamberCryotherapy chambers can have an effect after just a few minutes. Credit: jacoblund

Improved mood

Exposure to cryotherapy causes the body to release both adrenaline and endorphins, so whether you’re suffering from anxiety, stress or depression, you could feel a positive benefit.

Pain management

It’s said that pain from inflammatory conditions or injuries can be successfully treated with cryotherapy.

"It reduces the pain signals your brain receives and the inflammation of conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis and migraine"

The treatment reduces the number of pain signals your brain receives, plus cryotherapy reduces the inflammation caused by conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and migraine.

Injury recovery

Many athletes use cryotherapy to help aid healing of damaged muscles, ligaments and tendons. The treatment reduces both swelling and inflammation by stimulating blood and lymphatic fluid, therefore speeding recovery.

Man in a cryotherapy chamberGlove and shoes are provided for use in cryotherapy chambers. Credit: RossHelen

Weight loss

Alongside a balanced diet and exercise, cryotherapy can have benefits when it comes to losing weight. The extreme cold helps to burn calories whilst also boosting your metabolic rate.

Ageing

The body’s response to cryotherapy can also improve skin tone and reduce signs of the ageing process as it both stimulate collagen production and helps aid sleep.

Sleep problems

The low temperatures produce endorphin hormones which control sleep patterns (also known as neurotransmitters) and is distributed throughout the nervous system to work with nerve cells, ultimately helping you achieve quality sleep.

What the experts and clients say

Cryotherapy on the skin of the legsCryotherapy quickly reduces the temperature of the skin. Credit: Henadzi Pechan

Natasha O’Gorman director and recovery specialist at Aqua-Tox Wellness Clinic in Hertford tells us: "Cryotherapy has become one of our most popular treatments with a wide range of clients. From those who compete in sports, to those suffering from pain and chronic health conditions. Regular cryotherapy is helping our clients to feel better physically and mentally, sleep better, and recover from illness and injury."

One of Aqua-Tox’s clients is Jane who is 62 and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Jane has been having weekly three-minute cryotherapy sessions to help relieve her pain and discomfort, as an alternative to using increasing amounts of pain medication.

"The sessions have really helped my overall pain levels and my mobility. After my sessions I move more freely and sleep better"

“The sessions have really helped my overall pain levels and my mobility” explains Jane. “After my sessions I move more freely and sleep better, I can highly recommend the treatment.”

Natasha adds “Jane was reluctant to use the chamber at first, but she now looks forward to her weekly sessions and the feeling she gets when leaving the chamber.”

It’s recommended you don’t have more than one treatment per day, and most clinics recommend weekly, or twice weekly sessions.

Prices vary across the UK, but single sessions of cryotherapy start at around £40. If the treatment works for you the most cost-effective plan is to buy a number of treatments in one go to qualify for a discount. Get A Drip in London’s Shoreditch now offer cryotherapy subscriptions for £299 a month.

Banner credit: jacoblund

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