Cryotherapy is the local or general use of low temperatures in therapy. The term "cryotherapy" comes from the Greek cryo meaning cold, and therapy meaning cure. Cryotherapy has been used as early as the seventeenth century.
The goal is to increase cellular survival, decrease inflammation, decrease pain and spasm, and promote the constriction of blood vessels (vasoconstriction). Other therapies that use the term are cryogenic chamber therapy and ice pack therapy.
WHOLE BODY CRYOTHERAPY - WHAT WE DO
A relatively new modality of cryotherapy, called Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC), is currently being offered as an alternative to cold water immersion or ice packs. Administered through the use of a cryogenic chamber, WBC is a treatment whereby the person is placed in a cryogenic chamber for a short duration (i.e. no more than three minutes, which is comparable to ice swimming), and if used properly, will not destroy tissue. Whole body cryotherapy originated in Japan in 1978. However, it was a group of Polish scientists who took the idea and made whole body cryotherapy what it is today. The Olympic rehabilitation center in Spała, Poland opened in May 2000 and has been used as a training and injury rehabilitation center for many sporting bodies.
The chamber is cooled with liquid nitrogen, to a temperature of −120 °C (−184 °F)—although temperatures of −140 °C (−220 °F) or even −160 °C (−256 °F) have been used. The person is protected from acute frostbite with socks, slippers, and gloves, but in addition to that, wears nothing but a bathing suit. The patient spends a few minutes in the chamber. During a session the skin temperature can drop to as low as 5 °C (41 °F). The core body temperature remains unchanged during the treatment, however it may drop slightly afterwards. Cryotherapy triggers the release of endorphins which induces analgesia (immediate pain relief).
People have reported that the experience is invigorating and improves a variety of conditions such as psychological stress, insomnia, rheumatism, muscle and joint pain, fibromyalgia, itching, and psoriasis. The immediate effect of skin cooling and analgesia lasts for 5 minutes, but the release of endorphins can have a lasting effect, where the pains and signs of inflammation as found in blood tests can remain suppressed for weeks. The effects of extreme cold and endorphin release have been scientifically studied.