Benefits of Cryotherapy
Whether we are looking at a professional athlete or a novice bodybuilder, one thing that is shared among these people is muscle soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness, often coined “DOMS,” is something that all athletes are familiar with. When this type of muscle soreness kicks in, it can have a drastic effect on the athlete’s ability to continue training and even cause a delay in their recovery.
Cryotherapy is now suggested as a therapeutic solution for athletes. The technique may assist in speeding up recovery and could even be a useful component in the prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness. Let’s take a closer look at what cryotherapy is and what research says about this therapy.
What Is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is not something new. In fact, this therapy has been used for a long time in athletes, as well as to assist in reducing pain and inflammation following an acute injury. Ice packs form the basis for cryotherapy. Then there are the athletes who prefer to take an ice bath for a couple of minutes following a game. Many athletes believe that this technique is highly effective at providing a significant improvement in muscle recovery and reducing the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness.
As technology has advanced, chambers have been constructed to provide cryotherapy. Many athletes are now utilizing this technology to benefit from the therapy without the need to lie down in an ice bath for half an hour.
Cryotherapy chambers provide a much more significant reduction in temperature. This is a whole-body experience compared to ice packs that are more targeted. The athlete would step into the cryotherapy chamber for only about three minutes to gain full advantage of the therapy.
The main purpose of this treatment procedure is to increase metabolism, regrowing damaged cells and tissues. It also helps fight several ailments such as arthritis, skin conditions, nerve irritations, etc. While cryotherapy reduces inflammation and pains, it increases blood circulation.
Research On Cryotherapy In Athletes
Multiple studies have been conducted to provide evidence on how effective cryotherapy is for athletes, as well as for acute injuries.
A study by the National Institute of Sport in France compared the efficiency of cryotherapy to that of passive modalities and far-infrared following muscle damage. Muscle damage was induced by an intense training session. Cryotherapy yielded superior results and was able to provide restoration in muscle strength, whereas the other two therapies yielded delayed results.
In another study, inflammatory responses following a session of severe exercise were monitored. Cryotherapy was the primary therapeutic technique used to treat induced muscle damage. C-reactive protein levels were reduced, along with Interleukin (IL-1) levels. The conclusion here was that inflammatory markers are significantly reduced with the use of cryotherapy.
How is chemotherapy used in muscle recovery?
The cryotherapy technique involves the use of liquid nitrogen or argon gas to create a very cold temperature. The main purpose of this procedure is to destroy diseased tissues, skin conditions, and the like.
Cryotherapy has replaced the use of ice packs or cold towels as a cold compress. To replace these, cryotherapy chambers filled with extra cold, dry air are used for the whole body.
After applying the cold compress to the affected tissue, the temperature becomes unbearable to the cells, thereby leading to their death.
There are two methods of cryotherapy;
1. External Cryotherapy
External Cryotherapy is the application of the freezing agent to the affected part of the skin. The freezing agent can either be sprayed with a device or cotton wool. Liquid nitrogen is the chemical substance used in this method.
After external cryotherapy, slight pain could be felt in the affected area. Scabs will also form weeks after the treatment.
When the freezing agent is applied, the affected area begins to peel off, thereby giving room for new skin to grow.
2. Internal Cryotherapy
For affected tissues in the body, a cryoprobe is used by a healthcare provider. A cryoprobe is inserted through a small incision to the tissue close to the affected area. After this internal cryotherapy, the cryoprobe becomes cold, thereby freezing the nerve. The affected area will be painful for a few days and might lead to watery discharge in certain cases, for example, cryotherapy on the cervix.
Note that before the cryotherapy procedure begins, anesthesia could be used depending on the part of the body in which the tissue is affected.
Benefits of cryotherapy
These are the main benefits of using the cryotherapy techniques in treating any affected tissue you might be experiencing;
1. Reduced painful effects
Using cryotherapy for treating injuries or tissues reduces inflammation and muscle pain. It also reduces pains in the affected area, thereby making the patient a bit comfortable.
After exercises, cryotherapy could be applied to reduce soreness, muscle pain, or joint locks. It is a very safe procedure for rehabilitation and muscle healing.
2. Decreased chances of tumors
Affected tissues in the internal parts of the body may lead to tumors or cancerous conditions. Cryotherapy can be used in treating cancerous cells and tumors. In this case, it is known as cryosurgery.
3. Treatment of skin conditions
Cryotherapy is a way to treat skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. It also takes care of dry, itchy, or dry skin. Another amazing thing about cryotherapy is its ability to enhance the level of antioxidants through blood flow.
4. Quick healing of athletic injuries
Cryotherapy is a more advanced and faster use of cold therapy. Cold therapy is a very effective and commonly used treatment for sports injuries. This is because cold compresses reduce swelling and the rate of blood flow to the injured area.
5. Mood Improvement
Constant use of cryotherapy helps to enhance better mood and reduce mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
The cold temperature of cryotherapy releases hormones such as endorphins. Such hormones prevent mood disorders.
6. Weight loss
Cold therapy increases metabolism and release of adrenaline and noradrenaline. All these factors contribute to losing body weight and burning calories.
Other benefits of cryotherapy treatment are muscle relaxation, reduction of oxidative stress, energy boost, etc.
How Is Cryotherapy Diagnosed?
It is essential to visit a healthcare expert for proper diagnosis. People with the following conditions may require cryotherapy:
- Tissue injuries
- Acute swelling or sports injuries
- Skin conditions, for example, eczema, etc.
- Precancerous cells in the body tissues like skin, cervix, etc.
- Cancerous cells in the bone, liver, retina, etc.
Precautions For Using Cryotherapy
Although cryotherapy has consistently proven to be efficient, there are some preventive measures to take to avoid certain risks and dangers.
1. Health conditions
Patients with high blood pressure, nerve pain, blood clotting, or fold sensitivity should try as much as possible to avoid cryotherapy. Also, pregnancy, previous history of heart attack, or open sores are part of these conditions to be wary of. It is advisable to consult a medical expert for advice on cryotherapy treatment.
2. Age factor
Elderly patients often find it hard to conserve heat in the body. Therefore, too much cold could result in vasoconstriction. Cryotherapy helps in preventing cancer risks, increasing mobility, and decreasing pains in older people, but the use must be controlled.
Children are also warned to use cryotherapy at all.
Side effects of Cryotherapy
There are certain side effects that can occur as a result of using cryotherapy. This is why cryotherapy must be used with proper healthcare monitoring.
The side effects are:
1. Pains and swelling
After cryotherapy, patients often have to use pain relievers because of the pain that comes with the treatment. The affected party also swells for some days. Swelling could be treated with corticosteroids until the swelling reduces.
Long-term effects of the pains and swelling may result in scars or skin changes.
During the procedure, the patient is likely to develop frostbite, which may later lead to full-blown numbness. During the numbness, a nerve is likely damaged and will take a lot of time to heal up.
Excess use of cryotherapy may later lead to infection. The affected area could either excrete pus or fluid that will later need to be treated.
4. Change in body vitals
Cryotherapy increases blood pressure and reduces heart and respiratory rate. This is why patients with heart and respiratory diseases must be careful while using cryotherapy techniques.
Other side effects are blisters, burns, heavy bleeding, etc.
While further research is still needed to provide more accurate evidence, there are studies that have shown Cryotherapy can effectively reduce creatine kinase in an athlete’s blood, which indicates a speed up in recovery. Pain and inflammation can also be reduced with the use of this cold chamber therapy technique.
Cryotherapy can be applied internally or externally. Internally by a cryoprobe being inserted through a small incision and externally on the skin surface. Despite its many benefits, the procedure must be applied minimally without affecting the health conditions of the patient.
Seek the advice of a healthcare provider before booking a cryotherapy session.
Written by The Original PC Doctor on 11/6/2022.