Athletes and trainers have long been using the principles of cryotherapy to accelerate recovery and enhance sports performance.
What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy, also called Cold Therapy, is basically the use of very low temperatures for medical treatment or therapy.
For example, applying an icepack to a sore or injured muscle is a very simplified version of cryotherapy.
Before the advanced technology of current cryotherapy methods was available, athletes used to soak themselves in ice baths after an intense workout to speed up muscle recovery.
The idea is that an extremely cold temperature can help reduce tissue inflammation and improve blood circulation.
How have Cryotherapy techniques advanced?
Cryotherapy chambers and Cryosaunas are now available to replace the old school ice bath method.
What is a Cryotherapy Chamber?
Stepping into a cryotherapy chamber is like stepping into a pod with an open top so your head and face are outside the chamber, so you can breathe freely.
Inside the chamber, your body is then exposed to icy cold air flow, somewhere around minus 110 degrees Celsius or colder. The whole experience only lasts about 3 minutes for optimal effectiveness.
Even though the concepts of the cryo-chamber and ice baths are the same, the results are quite different.
The problem with ice baths is that while they may help to reduce inflammation after a heavy workout, the athlete must rest afterward to avoid causing injury or tissue damage.
This is because an ice bath penetrates the skin, whereas the cold air in the cryo-chamber does not.
Sitting in a bath of ice, the cold will permeate deep into the skin and muscles, making tissues prone to damage without sufficient rest afterward.
With cryotherapy treatments, on the other hand, the liquid nitrogen never comes into direct contact with the skin but is able to produce the desired results.
Therefore, athletes are free to engage in a full workout after a cryotherapy treatment if they so desire.
How do Cryotherapy boost sports performance and recovery?
There is an assortment of physiological changes that occur during and after a cryotherapy session.
Some of the physical effects that take place are:
- Blood vessel constriction
- Increased metabolism
- White blood cells trigger an anti-inflammatory response
- Increased pain tolerance
- Increased circulation
- Reduced oxidative stress
Blood vessel Constriction
One of the first reactions the body will have in a cryo-chamber is that the blood vessels will constrict. This is the body’s response to the perceived threat of extreme cold and potential tissue damage.
The response is triggered by the hypothalamus in the brain, which is responsible for thermoregulation.
The threat is only perceived of course, as cryotherapy is completely safe and there is no worry of actual tissue damage.
In the cryo chamber, the skin begins to cool down very quickly. Even though the cooling effect is only skin deep, the body scrambles for some way to generate heat internally in order to compensate.
This results in a massive increase in cellular metabolism, enhancing cellular energy and ATP production.
ATP, or Adenosine triphosphate, is responsible for energy storage and transport for living cells.
White Blood Cells
The white blood cells then release a protein called cytokine, which is involved in signaling other cells. During the cryotherapy process, the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines is increased.
This promotes a healing effect on the body.
Increased Pain Tolerance
This makes it sound like there is pain involved in cryotherapy, but rest assured it is only a perceived pain.
The extreme cold inhibits the body’s capability of sending pain signals. After a few sessions, the body’s pain stimulus perceptions are naturally adapted.
This makes cryotherapy an effective treatment for chronic pain.
After the cryotherapy session is finished, the body then looks to achieve thermal homeostasis in the body, which results in increased blood flow and circulation.
The blood vessels then go through a process called vasodilation, where the blood vessels open up considerably, helping to reduce blood pressure and hypertension.
Reduced Oxidative Stress
All these physiological responses serve to help reduce oxidative stress and the cellular damage it can cause.
Many sports injuries, and soreness after physical activity, are the result of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Cryotherapy is an excellent treatment for chronic inflammation.
Vivere Wellness Ottawa
Vivere Wellness Mind & Body Rejuvenation Centre is an ideal option for improving sports performance and recovery in the Ottawa area.
There are many therapy options to choose from, including Cryotherapy.