Cryotherapy: The Newest Wellness Trend, But Is It Safe and Effective?



Cryotherapy: The Newest Wellness Trend, But Is It Safe and Effective?


A new trend recently kicked off in the Wellness industry. It's called cryotherapy, and it is what it sounds like: voluntarily being put in a cold chamber for a certain period of time. Here's how the procedure works, how it's supposed to benefit people, and an overview of whether this trend is safe based on current research.

How Does Cryotherapy Work?


In general, the process involves exposing someone to extreme cold for intervals lasting up to several minutes. Usually done in a laboratory, the individuals' vitals are monitored during the process. The "booth" used for the process looks almost identical to a tanning bed.

There are two versions of cryotherapy. One is called "whole body cryotherapy", which is when an individual is fully immersed in one of these "booths". The temperature inside the booth is usually dropped to an unbelievably cold negative 200 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the time, people only spend two, three, or four minutes in these chambers. The other is called "localized cryotherapy", and it's similar to using an ice pack to target specific areas of the body. However, it usually involves using various instruments to get beneath the recipient's layers of skin.

The idea behind this new trend is that since ice packs are used to reduce localized inflammation, immersing one's body in icy-cold temperatures may serve as a similar anti-inflammatory for other conditions. However, since the field is not well-regulated, it's often performed by people who aren't medical professionals. Let's look deeper into how cryotherapy may help recipients.

How Does Cryotherapy Allegedly Help People?


There are a few alleged benefits touted by industry professionals. Keep in mind that these are not proven and are largely based on individual anecdotes. One of the most major claims is that it may help alleviate migraine-induced pain. Since migraines are often caused by nerves in the neck, it's thought that this process could numb these nerves enough to prevent migraines from occurring.

It's also touted by supporters to alleviate other types of pain. Nerve pain, one of the worst chronic pain conditions one can have, is allegedly one condition that it can help. It could also help with arthritic pain and sports-induced nerve irritation. Of course, the ideology for this treatment is similar for physical pain it may help alleviate.

However, more interestingly, some claim that cryotherapy can assist with alleviating mood disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and more. Because the body is not acclimated to such cold temperatures, it causes physiological and hormonal responses, according to a controlled study performed by the National Institutes of Health. In this lone study, it was found to be a short-term fix for anxiety and depression. If this is proven to be correct, it would be one of the only drug-free treatments for these ailments.

It's being investigated as a potential treatment for carcinogenic tumors. It works like a local anesthetic for cancer cells. Only used in the localized form of cryotherapy, it freezes cancer cells in place, making them easier and safer to remove. Some publications refer to this as "cryosurgery". There have not been any formal studies done on this to date.

Is Cryotherapy Safe?


There's no general consensus within the scientific community regarding the safety of cryotherapy. Some swear by it, others call it a fad, and some claim that they were harmed due to the extreme cold. In other words, at the moment, it's a bit of a gamble.

However, if it is proven safe, it would be an excellent tool for doctors to use in pain treatment. It would also add to psychiatrists' toolkits to treat some mental illnesses, if these claims are true. Addictive medications, such as benzodiazepines and opioids could be used less or not at all.

Taking Everything with a Grain of Salt


Remember, though these revelations are very exciting for many, new trends like this should be evaluated through formal studies. At the moment, the field is somewhat like the "Wild West" in that, while some procedures are performed by licensed practitioners, some states allow literally anyone to operate a cryotherapy-based business.

If you're interested in trying out cryotherapy, be sure to read up on all the latest research. Also, be sure that you're going to someone with actual medical training so you'll be as safe as possible during it!



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