If you reside in Ottawa, you have probably heard of the term cryotherapy. If you have not, it is the process of utilizing low temperatures for medical therapy. It could be something as simple as siting in an ice bath or in a cold tub or just using ice on a wound. In recent times, there have been new developments in regards to cryotherapy and one of them involves getting into a body-sized chamber that reaches the neck and having liquid nitrogen sprayed into the air to bring skin temperature down to under two hundred degrees. Essentially, cryotherapy uses cold temperatures for health benefits. Human beings have used this form of therapy since time immemorial to slow down cell aging, improve recovery, decrease muscle spasms, and pain. For decades, athletes have soaked in ice baths and cold tubs but with recent innovations, it is now possible to go for whole body cryotherapy.

Why cryotherapy?

Some studies reveal that WBC is effective against delayed onset muscle distress in athletes. Nevertheless, a meta-analysis of studies did not find the same results and questioned the legitimacy of earlier studies. Many celebrities and athletes claim to have benefited from cryotherapy and the rapid growth in popularity of these cold saunas indicates that many others may observe the same results even though science cannot yet seem to understand why or how WBC reduces soreness.

One of the advantages attributed to cold therapy is an immune system boost but research about that is contradictory. The theory behind cryotherapy is that the rapid exposure to extreme cold triggers the hypothalamus to switch on anti-inflammatory procedures within the body. Doctors all over the world recommend cold therapy for improving leptin levels and this has a proven connection to enhancing immune health. It is not clear whether three minutes of staying in temperatures under two hundred degrees are enough to activate the same leptin benefits as ice baths but more studies could shed light on this. Another theory is that three minutes of intense cold is adequate stimulation to trick the body into thinking it is in a survival situation and to raise the normal immune procedure in the body.

Is cryotherapy safe?

As you can imagine, getting into a sub-zero chamber comes with several risks though not as many as you may anticipate. The only cases of harm or injury ever reported came about when people entered the chamber with damp clothing, contracted frostbite, and the death of a cryo-sauna employee who decided to use the tank on their own without the assistance of a trained technician. Since WBC lasts for only a minimum amount of time within a controlled environment, the potential for risk may actually be lower than when doing immersion in cold-water therapy. Ideally, pregnant women should not take part in this kind of therapy and anyone with a health condition should check with their physician first. Currently, WBC is unregulated and not comprehensively studied so expect to learn more about the risks and benefits of cryotherapy as doctors continue to research.

Bottom line

Studies are still ongoing about cryotherapy and while the advantages of cold therapy outweigh the risks, we still do not know how WBC compares or if it has long-term evidence. However, initial studies and subjective evidence look promising. Like almost everything in life, cryotherapy carries its own risks if carried out wrongly and its benefits when done correctly so do it professionally.

If you live in Ottawa, it would be worth your while to try out cryotherapy for the mental clarity and boost of energy that lasts a few days after the session. Doctors have used cryotherapy in clinical settings to help with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain conditions. Cryotherapy seems to have both long and short-term benefits against chronic pain and can make other therapies better endured by patients and more effective as well.

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