How Cryotherapy Helps to Support Mental Wellness

Did you know that, apart from countless physical benefits, cryotherapy can help to improve your mental health, too?

We know that three minutes in a whole body Cryo chamber can provide analgesic (or pain-relieving) effects, but studies show that the relief you can get from cryotherapy is not limited to the physical pain. It can help to improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and provide a euphoric feeling, much like exercise can provide. Why, you ask?

According to several medical studies conducted in Europe (where, by the way, cryotherapy has been all the rage for much longer than it’s been popular stateside), short-term exposure to extreme cold can have a positive impact on the management of patients’ anxiety, depression, and levels of stress.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty science of the thing, how can something so subjective be measured in the first place?

As part of the answer to that question, it’s worth noting that in most of these studies, seemingly intangible markers of anxiety, stress, depression, and other indicators of mental health are actually made quite tangible, by way of rating a patient’s condition based on commonly accepted scales. The Hamilton scale of depression and anxiety, for instance, requires a patient to be interviewed on 21 different points relating to depressive conditions. Other scales, like those measuring life satisfaction, are also used to measure and quantify these subjective points of wellness – both before and after treatment is applied.

How about those results, though?

Using these scales of measurement for depressive, affective, and anxiety disorders to assess patients both before and after their cryotherapy treatment programs, studies showed measurable positive effects – effects which were widely felt by participants and in many realms of their mental health conditions.

One study1 remarked that, after just one single treatment, subjects experienced “improvement of mood, deep relaxation … [a sense of] consolation, [and] euphoria.” Another2 tested this theory with similar results. By studying two groups of patients (one control group and one test group), researchers measured the influence of whole-body cryotherapy on “patients suffering from affective and anxiety disorders” and invited those patients to self-assess the impact they observed cryotherapy to have on their own mental state. After three weeks of regular cryotherapy, the patients’ conditions and self-ratings had improved in a large way. In fact, whole body cryotherapy was reported to have “significantly reduced the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms” while simultaneously improving patients’ “life satisfaction” ratings2. In a totally different study3, a group of patients receiving treatment for depression received ten cryotherapy treatments over the course of two weeks, and afterward, the “overall score for all patients together was significantly lower after [whole body cryotherapy]”.

Remember, too, that in the abstract, “improvement” seems a vague description of results. Whereas patients were reported to have a better overall “mean state” following the three-week treatment2, patients and researchers alike could point to specific indicators on each scale to document actual improvement. In the scales we discussed before (think Hamilton’s scale of depression and anxiety, as well as the life satisfaction scale), patients reported improvement in a majority of the components listed to measure their mental health: collectively, the largest improvement “was observed with respect to 12 of the 16 components of the depression scale”.2 In the life satisfaction scale (dealing with aspects of general satisfaction, personal interests, physical welfare, as well as domestic and professional activity), improvement was noted in 6 of the 11 categories listed.

In the spirit of really demystifying the “mumbo jumbo” of it all, consider this: with consistent cryotherapy treatments over just a short period of time (from 2 to 3 weeks in duration, depending on which study we’re talking about), patients suffering from mood, anxiety, and depressive disorders felt a positive change in 75% of the components on Hamilton’s scale and more than half of the areas that concern one’s satisfaction with life2.

Of course, nobody is trying to pass off cryotherapy as a magic cure-all. This isn’t snake oil, and we’re certainly not in the business of selling nonsense that doesn’t work.

The point is, however, that despite limited research, cryotherapy has proven itself an effective addition to your quest for wellness – and not just in the physical sense.

So whether you want to base it on the research, our say-so, your own personal experience, or our clients’ many testimonials – cryotherapy can be a great supplement to your arsenal of tools and treatments to reach mental and physical wellness.

 

1Rymaszewska, J., Biały, D., Zagrobelny, Z., Kiejna, A. (2000). The influence of whole body cryotherapy on mental health. Psychiatr Pol. Jul-Aug;34(4):649-53.

2Rymaszewska, J., Ramsey, D., Chładzińska-Kiejna, S., & Kiejna A. (2000). Can short-term exposure to extremely low temperatures be used as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of affective and anxiety disorders? Psychiatr Pol, Sept-Oct;41(5), 625-36.

3 Rymaszewska, J., Tulczynski, A., Zagrobelny, Z., Kiejna, A., & Hadrys, T. (2003). Influence of whole body cryotherapy on depressive symptoms – preliminary report. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 15(03), 122-128.

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