When Cryotherapy “emerged” and came on the scene in the US, it seems like every cryo blog or article centered their message around the major players — LeBron, Mayweather, Kobe — and for good reason. Theirs are significant athletic feats and careers, and their testimonies laid the foundation of the coolest wellness frenzy ever (pun intended).
Of course, what motivates a client to seek out cryotherapy as a treatment will surely differ from person to person, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most of the people who seek relief, by way of cryotherapy, are often looking to alleviate mild to moderate forms of discomfort caused by inflammation. It’s logical, isn’t it? Much like an ice pack, cryotherapy “cools” inflamed muscles, tendons, joints, etc., and like a salve for their suffering, my clients leave the Cryosauna infinitely happier than they walked into it.
But what about if you don’t have an aching back, or a twisted neck from that car accident five years back? What if you’re not suffering from joint stiffness, and haven’t had surgery to recover from? What if you’re the couch-surfer to LeBron’s freak-of-nature sportiness and you aren’t afflicted with anything that’s inflamed or hurts?
“What can cryotherapy actually help me with, then?”
Once in a while, a prospective client will ask me this question, and I give the truthful answer:
Whether you have physical complaints or not, cryotherapy – especially when it becomes part of a regular routine – can help to support your overall wellness.
How? Well, that question takes a few more detailed bullet points to answer:
- Increased Energy and Metabolism Well, we call it a “Cryo Buzz” for a reason – and that’s because of the energetic rush experienced after a cryotherapy treatment. The endocrine system responds to exposure to extreme cold by pumping out endorphins and serotonin – both “feel good” hormones that are responsible for that floating, euphoric sensation felt after a good workout. Cryotherapy offers the same kind of endorphin-related “buzz,” which can last for hours after your session.
That “Cryo Buzz” also results from a temporary increase in metabolism. When you hear about boosting metabolism, chances are you’re thinking about calories and burning them. This is a favorite benefit amongst clients because that’s exactly what happens: you burn more calories!
That’s because your body is forced to undergo, and then recover from, a “fight or flight” type of reaction when exposed to extreme cold. After treatment, hyper-oxygenated and nutrient-dense blood rushes to all areas of the body, which encourages natural healing. To conduct this process, your body works harder, therefore expending more calories than it would at rest.
Just a single session burns anywhere from 400 – 800 calories in the 24-hour period following treatment (of course, this is somewhat dependent on your existing metabolic rate).
While this post-treatment calorie burn is a short-term effect, many clients also find that – with regular, recurring treatments – cryotherapy helps to “reset” and improve overall metabolic functioning in the long term.
- Sounder Sleep
Though it may seem antithetical to the last point, cryotherapy can also help you to sleep more soundly – whether your session is in the morning or the afternoon!
Of course, if you are experiencing restlessness at night because of aches and pains, cryotherapy can help to alleviate inflammation, thereby reducing related night-time discomfort.
As mentioned in the first point, one of the added benefits of your body’s “fight or flight” response to extreme cold is the increase of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that helps you to feel calm and also assists in regulating your sleep cycle. Coupled with an increase in serotonin levels, your mind and body both relax (which helps to focus you during the day, a great complement to that “buzz” of energy you’ll feel). As a result, your mind will worry and wander less, which can help you fall asleep faster.
- Healthier Skin, Hair, and Nails
Another celebrated benefit of whole-body cryotherapy is the increase in collagen production. Whereas age, the sun, and environmental factors all reduce the production of collagen over time (which, unfortunately, is normal). However, just three minutes in the cryochamber can help to reverse that.
There are a number of types of collagen, a major protein in the body. Coming from the Greek word for “glue,” collagen literally holds us together – our skin, our muscles, and on the most basic level, our cells. The different types of collagen help to strengthen our blood vessels and preserves our skin’s elasticity and youthfulness. However, when the body is fighting other battles (like constant illness, fatigue, inflammation, etc.), even functions like collagen production are altered. For proper production to occur, the body needs its essential vitamins, minerals, and good circulation to be present.
That’s where cryotherapy comes in. When the body responds to extreme cold, it experiences a temporary “survival” reaction, one of which is the constriction of blood vessels during the time it is exposed to those subzero temperatures. Afterward, vascular expansion occurs, allowing a greater flow of blood to transport nutrients with it – those necessary vitamins, minerals, and blood flow – and helping to flood out the toxins, thereby encouraging collagen production by simply making the nutrients available for synthesis to occur.
So, while a single session alone won’t erase all your fine lines and wrinkles, regular cryotherapy can help to “re-train” your body to produce and use collagen more efficiently. That means a reduction in those fine lines, in those wrinkles, and even in cellulite! When you consider what an important part collagen has to play in maintaining health inside and out, it’s no wonder that regular cryotherapy helps to restore and rejuvenate skin, but also hair, nails, joints, etc.
- Gentle Detoxing
During cryotherapy, your body responds to extreme cold by rapidly constricting blood vessels and rushing blood to the core. Your brain makes the executive call to flood the body with anti-inflammatory and “feel-good” hormones to protect itself against the freezing temperatures.
After cryotherapy, the body relaxes — it has “saved you” from what it perceived to be life-threatening cold – and immediately allows the vessels to expand, increasing the flow of blood again, but this time, much more nutrient-dense and oxygen-rich.
This vasodilation makes for some pretty profound detox benefits. Think of it as a thorough flushing-out of rarely-accessible areas of the circulatory system. By stimulating the body in such a broad, yet deeply-probing way, we shake off toxins that are built up inside of us!
- Immune System Boost!
Is it that difficult to believe, after all of the aforementioned benefits, that cryotherapy is an immune-boost in its own right? Nobody thinks twice about popping an extra Vitamin C gummy, or guzzling down OJ as a means of warding off illness or the flu, but have you ever thought of jumping into a subzero cryotherapy tank?
With all of its detoxing and anti-inflammatory benefits, it isn’t rocket science, but it’s still pretty cool: cryotherapy can help to reduce incidence of cold and flu.
In fact, with regular treatments, you can help to “train” or “reset” your immune system altogether – which is especially helpful for those of us suffering from autoimmune diseases and disorders. But how, right?
Think of your body as the unique and complex system of communication that it really is. With the brain as the conductor, each body part and system works together to transmit and receive signals from all over – messages about hunger, or pain, or day-to-day functioning, and even survival. However, sometimes the brain gets a red flag that reports an alien invader. No, not a UFO, but a foreign entity just the same. That, in a nutshell, is how the immune system works: it distinguishes “known” from “unknown,” which translates respectively to “safety” versus “threat.”
Most of the time, the immune system functions on its own without mishap. Sometimes, though, antibodies (your bodily defense mechanisms) miscommunicate, or misread the signals, and begin to attack what is ours all along. That’s what an autoimmune disorder is.
Autoimmune disease can affect anyone, and any part of the body can come under undue scrutiny by misguided antibodies.
So, what’s that got to do with cryotherapy, you ask? Everything.
During exposure to extreme cold, the sympathetic nervous system has a strong response, causing a strong response too in the parasympathetic system. The endocrine system is kicked into action. The body then activates other positive immune responses: increased white blood cell counts, those anti-inflammatory properties we discussed already, and other mechanisms of homeostasis. The quickness with which vasoconstriction and expansion occur also helps to tone the blood vessels and reduce the release of histamines.
With regular enough sessions, these “positive” immune reactions become more efficient as the body learns to better distinguish between, and respond to, actual threats properly.
So, even if your goal isn’t recovery or pain relief, making Cryotherapy a regular part of your wellness routine can certainly help you to reap benefits – and plenty of them. From shinier hair to sounder, more restful sleep, regular sessions in the Cryosauna has a lot to offer – even if you’re “healthy enough.”
And face it – who doesn’t have three minutes to spare on a natural and holistic wellness routine?