Is Cryotherapy Right For You?
Does the St. Louis heat have you wishing for a chamber of chilly air for relief? Dr. Lauren Munsch Dal Farra, CEO of PALM Health, shares the wonders of what happens when you spend just a few minutes inside a cryochamber, and why so many patients choose cryotherapy to treat aches and pains.
Historically, rolling in the snow, standing under ice cold waterfalls, swimming in a hole cut in the ice, and ice baths were used in many cultures for invigorating the mind and body, and for reducing inflammation, pain, muscle soreness or swelling. Cryotherapy has emerged as the modern technology today in which a person is exposed to subzero temperatures (-150°F to -300°F), for a period of one to three minutes, in order to evoke physiological reactions to cold. Low temperatures are obtained by chilling the air with liquid nitrogen vapor and applying it either locally, on selected parts of the body, or generally, on the entire body as with the cryosauna or cryochamber.
The skin reacts to the cold by stimulating the body to go into survival mode, constricting peripheral blood vessels and shunting blood from the extremities to the core of the body where the blood is enriched with oxygen, enzymes and nutrients. After the treatment, as the body re-warms, the blood vessels in the periphery of the body dilate and this nutrient-rich blood is pushed back to the extremities. Studies suggest that the enriched blood flushes toxins from subcutaneous layers, initiates the cell renewal process, and promotes rejuvenation of the body at the cellular level. Whole Body Cryotherapy triggers the release of endorphins, which induces analgesia (immediate pain relief).
There are many potential benefits but the most commonly documented by research and patient testimonials include anti-inflammation, improved mood and sleep, euphoria, muscle and joint pain relief, and improved healing of several inflammatory mediated skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
Cryotherapy has also been reported to increase collagen production; therefore, improving skin tightening and rejuvenation. These, combined with the anti-inflammatory benefits and release of endorphins, have led to cryotherapy being labeled as an “anti-aging” technique.
The immediate effect of skin cooling and analgesia lasts for five minutes, but the release of endorphins can have a lasting effect, where studies demonstrate that the signs of inflammation in blood tests may remain suppressed for two to three weeks. Furthermore, if the treatment is combined with physiotherapy, the intensity of the therapy can be amplified due to the pain reduction of cryotherapy, which can improve long-term outcomes as well.
To ensure that guests are safe during a Whole Body Cryotherapy treatment at PALM, note the following precautionary measures:
- It is important to protect the extremities and fragile areas of the skin. Cryotherapy users should wear dry socks, gloves, underwear, and a sports bra for women.
- For those using a cabin chamber with whole body immersion including the head, wear a headband and face mask to cover the mouth, nose, eyes and ears.
- Do not exceed the recommended time of 1 to 3 minutes.
- Have a spa therapist or technician check the guest’s blood pressure prior to cryotherapy to ensure that the blood pressure is not high.
- The client should always be with an attendant and never left alone in the chamber at any time during the session, or during entry or exit of the unit. It is very important that the therapist or technician is extremely attentive to the client. The technician should remain very focused as he or she is responsible to stop the session early if the client is uncomfortable or wishes to end the session for any reason.