Recently, there has been a craze about ice baths and cold plunges all over the world. But what are they really about and why do them? Known as cold therapy or Cryotherapy, it is basically the use of extreme cold to freeze and remove abnormal tissue. Interested in learning more about it? Continue to read below.
How Does Cryotherapy Work?
Cold therapy causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels, decrease in their diameter) which immediately leads to vasodilation (increase in the diameter of blood vessels). This process activates the blood circulation, in particular the microcirculation, which allows the cells to be properly nourished and drained, in order to properly feed the organs. As it makes the circulation react, the cold makes the body more reactive. It is effective against cellulite, the formation of varicose veins, the sensation of heavy legs and even hair loss.
In addition, it releases endorphins that reduce stress and provide a feeling of well-being. These endorphins also relieve muscle and joint pain. Cold has an analgesic effect, which is why an ice pack is systematically used in case of hematoma. The benefits of cold are recognized by physiotherapists, who treat certain pains with menthol-based massage oils, which give a sensation of cold.
It also promotes calorie loss by eliminating white fat. Indeed, the body works harder to maintain its temperature around 37°C, thus burning calories in a cooler environment.
Cold therapy or cryotherapy is of increasing interest to doctors, especially in the field of sports. This technique consists of exposing a patient to temperatures between -110°C and -140°C for three minutes, to relieve body pain and promote recovery, cryotherapy is also used as a treatment for plantar warts. The cold burns the wart by rapidly cooling the lesions. It is also possible to administer the treatment at home, using a specific product, filled with liquid cryogenic gas.
Without going that far, thinking about turning down the heat, especially during sleep, or taking cold showers (around 20°C) can have positive effects on the body.
A Little History
Cryotherapy in the form of cold baths has existed since antiquity, but it is only since the 1970s that the application of ice packs, or cold spray, has begun to interest scientists around the world.
The Japanese were the first to expose cryotherapy to scientific methodology. This made it possible to evaluate the results obtained by reducing the temperature of the skin.
In June 2011, this method was used for the first time in the professional cycling competition of the Dolphin Liberate Criterium. Until today, this technique is widely used for cryotherapy sessions to help athletes recover after making an effort.
In September 2019, a report was published: Evaluation of the effectiveness and safety of cryotherapy for the body from a therapeutic point of view. This document reports that cryotherapy is an excellent ally for physical therapists and masseurs, as well as for athletes and individuals who wish to try it.
The Benefits of Cold on the Body
- Increase your energy: Walking in cold or icy temperatures increases your energy expenditure for hours. So a walk gives you energy.
- Ideal temperature for competitions: As you can see, marathons are held in late fall. There is less heat and this makes the body less stressed and it is easier and more enjoyable to run.
- Kills bugs: Disease-carrying insects thrive in warm weather, but die from the cold.
- Stimulates calorie burning: Cold weather prompts your body to burn fat to help you lose weight.
- Mind works better: Warm temperatures tend to deplete our resources such as glucose, which our brain uses to function well in the decision-making aspect. This is why cold is very important for the mind.
- Reduces inflammation and fights disease: Many athletes soak in ice baths or place ice packs on the affected muscle to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Good for sleep: Cold temperatures can help you sleep better.
Here you are! Now that you know more about Cryotherapy, what are your thoughts about this treatment? Are you going to try it too? Let us know in the comments below.