What is Whole Body Cryotherapy, and what are its benefits?
Cryotherapy is any medical treatment that exposes the body to cold. WBC or whole body Cryotherapy is mainly used in the sports medicine field to help muscles recover and relieve pain. WBC comprises immersing the entire body in a cold chamber, which emits vapors at shallow temperatures ranging from -110℃ to -160 ℃ for an interval of 2 to 4 minutes. While the body is in the cryogenic chamber, it is undressed except for gloves, socks, and underwear to protect the extremities.
A Cryo-chamber is a tube-shaped space covering a person’s body with an open-top to keep the head at room temperature. The environment is frigid due to the generation of cool air.
WBC leads to reducing the temperature of tissues. This change reduces core body temperature, which activates the unconscious nervous system. This leads to an increase in blood pressure, heart rate variability, and norepinephrine levels. Exposing the body to an extremely low temperature constricts the vessels and reduces blood flow in the areas of inflammation.
After leaving the cryogenic chamber, the vessels will expand, and anti-inflammatory proteins will be more present in the blood.
Benefits of Whole Body Cryotherapy
1- Reduces inflammation
Studies have found that cryogenic treatments increase the anti-inflammatory proteins IL-10, IL-1Ra, and cytokines IL-6, and decreased pro-inflammatory cytokine levels (IL-1α). Such changes last longer for people who use the cold chambers more often. As for athletes, studies found that this treatment reduces inflammatory proteins and improves tennis strokes. On the other hand, WBC treatment can increase several anti-inflammatory cytokines and decrease pro-inflammatory components.
2- It can reduce pain and increase joint mobility
Cryotherapy may reduce pain by improving antioxidant balance, decreasing inflammation, and increasing beta-endorphins. My studies have found that receiving consistent cryogenic chamber treatments can improve mobility and significant pain reduction after three months, even for the elderly. Another study found that individuals with a frozen shoulder can improve their shoulder rotation, mobility, and functionality by practicing whole body cryotherapy.
3- It can reduce Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
MS or Multiple sclerosis is known as the degeneration of nerves by a person’s immune system (autoimmune). It is partly encouraged by oxidative stress. Some symptoms include:
Depression and mood changes
Painful spasms, weak muscles, and fatigue
Numbness and dizziness
In a study that treated MS patients with ten cold chamber sessions, it was found that oxidative stress was significantly reduced. In another one, cryotherapy sessions were found to improve functional status and fatigue. WBC also increased exercise ability.
4- It can reduce fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can include fatigue, severe pain in the bones and muscles, and difficulty sleeping. A study conducted on 100 patients with fibromyalgia found that the patients treated with WBC showed significant improvements in the quality of their lives, lasting for at least one month after treatment.
5- It can work as a depression and anxiety treatment support
In a study conducted on 23 adults dealing with depression who received whole body cryotherapy sessions alongside their prescribed medications, the results found that significant symptoms of depression were reduced.