5 Benefits of Cryotherapy

5 Benefits of Cryotherapy

Sure, icing your knee or elbow is one thing but immersing yourself in sub zero temperatures to reduce pain probably sounds like crazed desperation. Yet, some studies continue to indicate that this may be an alternative approach to medication and, in some cases, even surgery. Other studies recommend more research.

It is known as cryotherapy which is the exposure or application of deep cold for rapid healing. There are several applications of this cold therapy which are becoming more of a go-to for athletes, weekend warriors, or your basic mall shopper with painful knees. It’s easy, it’s safe and it seems to be making a lot of people feel good.

These 5 benefits of cryotherapy can be traced back to cold therapy by ancient practices as well as to current day mid-winter bathing ‘polar bear’ clubs. Yet as some skeptics continue touting it as the next therapeutic trend, believers are showing significant, long lasting results.

The Working Parts 

In Japan, 1978, cryotherapy was developed to treat rheumatoid arthritis. There are three types of applications:

  • Cryotherapy – Application of deep cold to direct locations such as the neck, shoulder or knee.
  • Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) – Just as it says, whole body immersion (except, in most cases, the head) in freezing gas.
  • Infused cryotherapy – Chemicals injected into bloodstream to slow damaging effects on the body. This was most notable when applied in real time on a professional football field to Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills, paralyzed by a serious spinal cord injury. Not expected to move below his shoulders ever again, Everett made a full recovery.

Each is applied in a specific environment, temperature and timeframe that claims a long list of healing applications.

Forbes reports a simple description of WBC,

“WBC consists of exposing the entire body to very low (subzero) temperatures, sometimes below -200 degrees Fahrenheit, for a few minutes (typically between 2 and 4 minutes). Often, the person will stand in a tank or closet-like device, wear minimal clothing and be bathed in liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air,”


The nagging to debilitating symptoms of a migraine headache can be a real challenge, especially if they are frequent. Few understand the unrelenting pounding or dull ache one feels that, for some, can put them in bed for days.

Targeted cryotherapy was shown to successfully address migraines as shown in a study by researchers at the University of Hawaii, concluding,

“The application of a frozen neck wrap at onset of migraine targeting the carotid arteries at the neck significantly reduced recorded pain in participants with migraine headaches.”

Circulation to Ease Joint Pain

There is a physical therapy application called contrast bathing. This is the use of alternating hot and cold applications to increase circulation to reduce pain. Cryotherapy has shown to increase circulation through molecule expansion.

Natural New reports,

“Cryotherapy could be the key to keeping joints, muscles and tissues healthy over time. It works by shrinking the molecules in the body, so that when you emerge from the cold, the molecules expand, increasing the blood flow and easing pain, swelling and inflammation.”

Toxin Flush

Another claim of cryotherapy is how it may cause your body to rapidly flush toxins. Honey Colony reported on the ability for deep cold to throw the body into a detoxification/repair mode that may explain another of its healing effects,

“…thermoreceptors in the skin send signals to the brain to send the blood to the core to maintain body temperature with a process called vasoconstriction. Toxins are flushed from peripheral tissues and blood is enriched with oxygen, enzymes, and nutrients. The body activates all of its natural healing abilities and releases endorphins for further benefit.”

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Prevention

Polish researchers are working with WBC as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related symptoms. In a study out of the Department of Psychiatry, Wroclaw Medical University, Pasteura, Wroclaw, Poland the abstract published in Medical Hypotheses states,

“Nowadays, there is a general consensus that vascular alterations, oxidative stress and inflammatory response contribute to the development of AD [Alzheimer’s Disease]. Following these mechanisms and tracing the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of cryostimulation, we postulate that whole-body cryotherapy (WBCT) might be utilized as a means of preventing AD.”

Dermatitis and Other Skin Conditions

Some skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, chronic inflammation of the skin, can be a constant adverse effect on quality of life. With many patients having minimal response to pharmaceuticals, WBC is a possible consideration. Published in the prestigious JAMA Dermatology (Journal of the American Medical Association)it was concluded that,

“Whole-body cryotherapy, [] offers a new option in the armament of therapies for atopic dermatitis. In our patients, whole-body cryotherapy was successfully carried out as monotherapy during the treatment period, []. Thus, it clearly has a steroid-sparing effect with additional statistically and clinically significant improvements in pruritus [severe itching] and sleep disturbances.”

These 5 benefits of cryotherapy show a small portion of the many positive effects of this treatment. Side effects are minimal as long as the allotted three to four minute time mark is not breached which can cause skin burning. The jury is still out regarding definitive, study backed overall effects but most that experience this deep freeze report positive results.