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20 June 2016

Cryotherapy Explained

In very simple terms, cryotherapy is the application of ice or extreme cold to aid in the recovery or treatment of injury or illness, among other reported benefits. These days the term is most often associated with the large whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) chambers widely used by athletes, although the practise has existed in one form or another since the 17th century.

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The treatment has been widely reported to aid those suffering from aches, pains or inflammation, decrease cell growth and reproduction and increase cellular survival. All of these effects are apparently of massive benefit to athletes, who use the treatment to ease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), often brought on by periods of exercise. The application of cold to a problematic area is regularly recommended, so this reasoning seems pretty sound.

Some of the other supposed effects of cryotherapy, however, are still very much up for debate. Recently, for example, claims have been made about the treatment being used as an effective form of weight loss. This is apparently achieved by a combination of the cold increasing your body’s metabolic rate, therefore burning more calories, and the effect of freezing the cells themselves, which gives a more toned appearance. The science behind this is as yet unproven, and many contest the claims altogether. Even those who work in the industry accept that, if anything, this is a temporary fix.

Ignoring the more dubious claims such as the aforementioned weight loss, I can’t deny that cryotherapy does seem to have many positive applications in terms of health, but identifying exactly which claims hold merit will require further research.

Of course, no form of treatment comes without its own unique set of potential dangers or side-effects. For cryotherapy, these can include frostbite caused by overexposure or inert gas asphyxiation where liquid nitrogen is used. It is a sad fact that people have died in the past as a direct result of entering a WBC chamber without proper supervision. So, while WBC chambers may have some worthwhile benefits, do make use of them with proper care.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.