Beyond a bag of frozen peas applied to a bump
What is cryotherapy?
Cryo is a Greek word meaning icy, cold or frost. Therapy means treatment. Any use of ice or anything very cold is technically cryotherapy. It originated in Japan in the late 1970s and now is a booming business worldwide. We usually think of cryotherapy as applying ice packs to an injury to constrict blood vessels which alleviates pain and swelling. Times have changed. Whole body cryotherapy is the exposure of the entire body to sub zero temperatures (-200° or more) for several minutes. The person stands in a tank wearing minimal clothing. In the tank they will be immersed in liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air. If you think it’s equivalent to taking a cold shower, think again.
Why do Cryotherapy?
Celebrities like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Demi Moore, Kate Moss, Jennifer Anniston and many more love cryotherapy. Many of them claim they feel better, it reduces aches and pains, slows aging, sheds body weight and makes them look better. My friends also attest to the reduction of aches and pains. One friend who had a bad shoulder says after her cryotherapy the pain went away. In Europe cryotherapy is popular and covered by health insurance! The U.S. is not so sure.
Cryotherapy facilities range wildly in expertise. They are not FDA approved for safety or efficacy. Some owners have formal medical training and other have few or no healthcare credentials. Definitely do not try this if you have certain medical conditions (like high blood pressure) – check with your doctor first. Do your homework! Costs are another consideration. In NYC sessions at KryoLife were $90 per session.
What’s the bottom line?
As of now there is not any scientific evidence to support any benefits from whole body cryotherapy. It might be fun to try, and there are many users who love it and say they’ve never felt better. Make sure there is a trained operator present at all times. You don’t want to emerge as an ice cube – or experience full body freezer burn!