Cryotherapy Helps Athletes Play Better



Can the cold stuff that they spray on warts help athletes practice their sport better? Well, yes and no. Same science, different vehicle. The substance they use to kill warts is liquid nitrogen and it is squirted on the wart. Although this is usually employed when treatment with over-the-counter salicylic acid products has failed, it is faster and more effective.  This process that is purported to helps athletes involves standing in a special chamber for two to four minuteswith only their heads sticking out as the inside temperature drops to a negative 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just plain cold, even colder than dry ice. Both of these procedures are referred to as cryotherapy, ”cryo-” meaning cold.

It’s not that mysterious. If you have ever used ice bags, coolant sprays, ice baths, or ice massage, you have used cryotherapy. In these instances, it serves as a method to numb the tissues, reduce swelling, relieve pain, and speed recovery. This is a well-known and time-tested method of treatment for sports injuries. What is not known yet, however, is how long, how often, and at what temperature  the best and safest results canbe achieved. For a total body cryotherapy experience with the desired outcome beingthe reduction of joint and muscle pain, athletes climb into the chamber and freeze. Well, not really. The temperature drops gradually so their bodies are not shocked.

Leasha West, a US Marine Corp Veteran and former combat instructor, has ruthlessly beat upher body during her years of service and now finds whole body cryotherapy treatments to be an enormous help in relieving back and joint pain. She touts its other benefits, too. She feels she has more energy and focus and that her metabolism speeds up after treatment. She thinks it has improved the health of her hair, skin, and nails and that it promotes better sleep. 

Leasha’s claims are consistent with the benefits listed by the cryotherapy industry, namely: muscle and joint pain relief, weight loss, younger-looking skin, and better mood and energy. Weight loss is reportedly achieved because the cold temperature increases metabolism, making the body work harder and burning calories. The science behind this is valid but cryotherapy is not recommended as a weight loss method as it is only temporary. Even though people want a quick fix for their weight issues, it doesn’t exist.For sustainable weight loss it must be done the old-fashioned way, through diet and exercise.

Just as with the weight loss claim, there is science behind cryotherapy for younger-looking skin and depression, but the bottom line is the same: it’s a temporary solution. Unless you have the money to invest in a regular schedule of treatments, such as with professional athletes, don’t waste your money on sporadic treatments just yet.

Whole body cryotherapy is not for everyone. There are risks involved, and it’s not safe for people with certain physical illnesses such as heart and lung disorders, seizures, and Raynaud’s disease, to name a few. Dr. Hallie Zwibel, director of Sports Medicine at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine states that: “While it seems that there could be some beneficial outcomes to it, it doesn’t seem to be a breakthrough technology innovation that’s going to change medicine.”Whole body cryotherapy has not been approved by the FDA, but most authorities do agree that if applied safely, it can be used as adjunct therapy for some disorders. Although there is no strong scientific evidence of its value, the reported empirical values certainly justify further study.


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