Cryotherapy, also known as cold therapy, is the medical use of extreme cold to reduce pain caused by inflammation and swelling. Types of cryotherapy can range from the simple application of an ice pack on a bruise to whole-body cryotherapy. Ice baths and ice massages also fall into the category.
Cryotherapy works by reducing blood flow to a particular area. Exposure to extremely cold temperatures causes blood vessels to constrict. By preventing blood flow to an injury, it reduces inflammation and swelling. It can also reduce nerve activity, which can in turn reduce pain. But beyond pain relief, there are numerous other benefits that cryotherapy offers. Here are a few:
Cryotherapy is used to treat certain types of low-risk tumors. It works by freezing cancer cells and surrounding them with ice crystals which eventually kills the tumor. It is typically used to treat low-risk cancer cases such as prostate, skin, cervical, and bone cancer.
Cryotherapy is used as an effective treatment for a wide range of skin issues including skin lesions, early stages of skin cancer, viral warts, and keratosis. Extreme cold temperatures can kill unwanted skin cells similar to how they can kill tumors.
According to a study by the NIH, applying localized cryotherapy to the neck muscles can help reduce the pain caused by migraines. It works by numbing the nerves in the neck area and reducing the blood flowing to and from the brain.
Whole-body cryotherapy has been shown to be effective for short-term relief from mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. It releases certain mood-regulating hormones such as adrenaline and endorphins.
Whole-body cryotherapy has been shown to boost the immune system. When your body is exposed to extreme cold, the blood flows to the body’s core as a natural defense response. When that happens, a natural filtration process occurs that boosts the white blood cell count and kills toxins on the body.