The coolest new health trend: What you need to know about cryotherapy

Nov 12, 2019
Cryotherapy is a form of cold therapy which exposes the body to very low temperatures to promote healing. Source: Getty

If you’ve heard about the idea of cryonics – where people have their bodies frozen in the hopes they may one day be brought back to life – , then sitting in a cold tank for several minutes to improve your health might not seem so strange.

The new trend, which goes by the name of cryotherapy, has been praised for its amazing health benefits that reportedly include reducing signs of ageing and pain relief, but is it worth the hype?

Luke Guanlao, founder of Cryoclinics Australia, explains what cryotherapy is, how it works and the health benefits associated with the procedure.

Cryotherapy explained

There are two main types of cryotherapy. Whole body cryotherapy (the kind most people are referring to when they talk about cryotherapy), which essentially involves standing in a freezing tank for several minutes, and localised cryotherapy, which can be used to target specific areas. 

Said to offer a huge range of health benefits, Guanlao says cryotherapy is a form of cold therapy which exposes the body to temperatures of approximately -150 degrees celsius. This intense cooling leads to vasoconstriction – a process which helps conserve blood flow to the vital organs (the brain, heart and lungs).

Blood then rushes through the cardiovascular system, “where it is cleansed of toxins and supplied with oxygen, enzymes and nutrients,” Guanlao explains. Once you exit the freezing-cold tank (also called a cyrosauna or cryotherapy chamber), the nutrient-rich blood returns to your muscles, joints, and skin – this is called vasodilation. Your skin will return to its normal temperatures within minutes, according to Guanlao.

Benefits of cryotherapy

It’s safe to say, you wouldn’t voluntarily sit in a freezing-cold tank if there weren’t any benefits. Cryotherapy can help with muscle pain, reduce inflammation, increase metabolism and improve your mood. A 2017 study found whole body cryotherapy can help relieve pain and speed healing. Meanwhile, studies have found that cryotherapy may also temporary reduce arthritis pain.

“It has been proven that pain levels of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers decrease significantly after a whole-body cryotherapy treatment,” Guanlao adds.

It may also lower the risk of developing dementia and cancer, prevent migraine headaches and even help you lose weight.

While the benefits of cryotherapy can be felt immediately, Guanlao says it’s more effective when used regularly. For example, to treat chronic pain conditions, he recommends visiting monthly or twice a month, depending on your pain levels. And if you suffer from arthritis or severe joint pain and are planning a holiday abroad, Guanlao suggests it’s worth trying cryotherapy before your flight.

Cryotherapy risks

“While there are no risks with cryotherapy, there are a number of factors that can prohibit someone from undertaking cryotherapy,” Guanlao explains.

In general, it’s recommended that you avoid cryotherapy if you have a history of seizures, cold-induced asthma and heart attack. By the same token, if you’re suffering from acute kidney or urinary tract disease, cryotherapy should also be off limits until the condition has been treated.

If you’re considering cryotherapy and are in good health, it’s still important to consult your doctor and make sure it’s a safe fit for you.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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