What is Cryotherapy and what is it used for?
Posted: Mar 19, 2021
There has been a remarkable surge in interest in cryotherapy, which as this article will briefly explain is down to several key factors. Firstly, however, it is wise to offer up a definition for this amazing treatment.
The simplest way to understand what cryotherapy is involves tracing the linguistic origin of the word. ‘Cryo’ meaning cold and ‘therapy’ (healing) leaves little to the imagination and it is clear that cryotherapy is a form of healing through cold therapy. The basic premise involves using extreme cold, whether using localised or full body treatment to stimulate the body’s healing mechanisms. Cryotherapy is used in many diverse applications from minor conditions like warts and minor injuries, through to reduced recovery time for athletes and even for serious illnesses including cancer.
The massive increase in interest in cryotherapy can be tied to several phenomena, not least the raft of evidence that is beginning to shine a light on just how effective it can be as a treatment for a whole range of distinct conditions, most empirically making a marked difference on the inflammatory process. There is still much to understand about just how cryotherapy works, but the evidence is showing that it does. Many elite sports teams use cryotherapy after games to reduce recovery times and minimise stiffness and inflammation. Another factor in the popularity of cryotherapy owes to the lifelong passion and work of Wim Hof – AKA ‘the Iceman’ – a Dutchman who has spent his life partaking in cold therapy combined with breathing techniques, bringing in the scientific community to help prove the massive benefits it can have on all manner of health conditions and the immune system.
Cryotherapy can be carried out on the whole body, or there are various techniques and pieces of equipment that make localised cryotherapy an option for treating a precise part of the body. Let’s take a look at some of the common conditions cryotherapy is used to treat.
Whole body cryotherapy
Used for treating a raft of conditions from chronic pain like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, through to tendonitis and multiple ligament issues. As mentioned it is also used on athletes to reduce inflammation. One of the most common reasons for visiting the GP is for chronic back pain. WBC is also indicated in the treatment of back pain, with good results having a major boost to the industry. There are also some highly promising early results in for using whole body cryotherapy to treat anxiety and depression.
Localised cryotherapy has many applications. Used in the treatment of many of the same conditions as WBC, but on a local level it can give a more intense boost to a specific part of the body, sending blood away from the injured area and allowing rejuvenated blood to return. It is a good option for speeding up post-surgical recovery. Localised cryotherapy is also used in cosmetic treatments like cryofacials, involving a special wand and liquid nitrogen. This is said to promote youthfulness and skin glow.
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