Webster’s Dictionary defines Cryotherapy as the therapeutic use of cold. So, whenever you put a frozen pack of peas on a bruise or ice on an injury, you are employing cryotherapy.
Like other cryotherapies, Whole Body Cryo (WBC) uses cold to decrease pain and inflammation. What makes WBC unique are the subzero temperatures. The extreme cold stimulates skin centers, activating the Central Nervous System, and causing the release of endorphins while affecting blood circulation and reducing inflammation. The increased circulation clears out toxins with a fresh supply of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood.
Whole Body Cryotherapy vs. Ice Bath
WBC is not a faster version of an ice bath. The body’s reaction to an ice bath is radically different from its reaction to the dry cold in a cryosauna.
Typically, the body reacts to cold, like in an ice bath, by attempting to warm blood in its core and send it to the peripheral tissues (your extremities, ext.) to prevent the skin surface from freezing (vasodilation). While in an ice bath, the body is struggling with wet, physical cold (not just signals from your skin’s cold sensors). Blood begins cooling as it nears the skin’s surface, which is cooling to the water’s temperature. As the blood returns to the core, it begins to decrease the body’s core temperature. Eventually, muscles start to congeal and freeze as well. The small benefit of a temporary numbing effect for perceived reduction of pain and inflammation is far outweighed by the potentially damaging effects of the ice bath; such as running the risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold related illnesses.
Conversely, in the cryosauna, the body bypasses vasodialation and constricts peripheral tissues sending blood from the skin’s surface, muscle tissue, and surrounding joint space to the core to protect core temperature (vasoconstriction). As the blood travels to the core it passes through the cardiovascular system where it is cleansed of toxins and supplied with oxygen, nutrients, and enzymes. As long as the body is exposed to the extremely cold, it continues to flush the tissue of toxins and circulate blood between the cardiovascular system and the vital organs (many of which are filters) on a continuous loop. Once you exit the cryosauna, the body immediately begins vasodilation, returning the enriched blood to peripheral tissues that have been cleansed of toxins.
The key to this difference is the temperature of the environment. In an ice bath the temperature can only reach 45°F while the temperature in a cryosauna can get as low as -270°F. This means that skin surface temperature in an ice bath can only reach 41°F after a wet, prolonged, and often painful session while skin surface temperature in the cryosauna reaches -30°F in just 30-40 seconds. All the while the skin is only ever exposed to this invigorating, dry, cold for a maximum of 3 minutes, making it safer.
During an ice bath, tissue begins to freeze and muscles temporarily lose capacity and elasticity. Muscle tissue then needs time to return to normal, requiring the body to rest; which is why it is not recompensed to exercise directly afterwards. Therefore, an ice bath must be scheduled at the end of a rigorous workout so the participant can recuperate overnight. In contrast, the cryosauna does not actually freeze any muscle tissue. It only creates a powerful illusion that the body is freezing. In fact, upon exit from the cryosauna, the blood flows back to the peripheral tissues and warms the muscles almost immediately. Because of this, you may use the cryosauna both before and after a workout unlike an ice bath.
Lastly, while in an ice bath, oxygen supply to the skin surface is interrupted and it causes skin surface injury that can promote skin disease if the procedure is often repeated. Significant health risks may include the MRSA infection if ice baths are not cleaned and maintained properly. (MRSA is a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to some antibiotics.) Hypothermia and frostbite are some other risks when skin is exposed to wet, freezing temperatures. There is no such effect in the whole body cryotherapy chamber as the client is surrounded by cold, dry air and oxygen supply to the skin surface is not significantly interrupted. In addition, the cryosauna is regularly dried so it further decreases any chance of your skin coming into contact with moisture.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.