Cryotherapy – Why Do We Use It?

What is Cryotherapy?

Guest Author – Heidy Sutherland, Owner & Operator of North Lakes Cryotherapy

Dr Jeff & Natalie in the Cryotherapy machine in North Lakes after a long run.

Cryotherapy is a non-invasive, fast and effective hyper-cooling treatment that is suitable for anyone seeking muscle recovery and repair, injury treatment, metabolism boost, skin rejuvenation and overall wellness.

Within all of us lies a highly evolved survival mechanism that has been developed over long periods of time in our history on this planet. This ancient adaptation is crucial to our survival against the elements. Unfortunately, it requires getting cold – very cold – to awaken this amazing response.

Enter Whole Body Cryotherapy. It is a 3-minute process that “tricks” your brain into thinking the body is colder than you think you really are. This allows you to tap into this power and unleash the healing benefits that so many of us can use in combating the pain and inflammation we deal with on a daily basis.

How does Cryotherapy Work?

Whole Body Cryotherapy was developed in Japan in its current form by Dr Toshima Yamaguchi in 1978 to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Within several years the medical community recognised that Whole Body Cryotherapy benefits went beyond just treating arthritis and began using it more broadly to treat soft tissue pain and inflammation.

During a session in a Cryosauna, your body will be briefly enveloped in a fine nitrogen mist and the CryoSauna safely cooled to approximately -150oC for up to 3 minutes, triggering the body’s natural healing mechanisms as if it were freezing.

Blood will be pulled from your extremities to accumulate in your core to become warmed. Your cells will be flooded with oxygen, nutrients and enzymes. The skin exposure to these extreme temperatures also triggers the release of anti-inflammatory molecules.

Your brain will trigger a release of endorphins, adrenaline and other hormones into our body. During your 2 to 3-minute session your brain stimulates the body’s organ regulatory functions resulting in energy increase, cell rejuvenation, immune system boost and overall system self-healing.

Cryotherapy is for anyone looking to optimise their health and wellbeing.

What are the Potential Benefits of Cryotherapy?

Natalie experiencing whole-body cryotherapy … She’s going to kill me for using her picture, but she’s a much better model than me. 😉

The benefits of cold therapy, such as ice packs and ice baths in relieving inflammation and swelling are well-recognised. Regular Cryo sessions can help promote anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, the modern environment increases systemic inflammation and it must be controlled to live a healthy life. Pain pills, anti-inflammatory drugs and surgery will never solve the problem of increased systemic inflammation.

Three minutes of Cryotherapy reduces your skin temperature in order to elicit a cellular metabolic response. This ignites the healing process and may assist in reducing pain. Our goal at North Lakes Cryotherapy is to make this powerful, innovative all-natural alternative therapy accessible to everyone, not just the athletes but to everyone dealing with inflammation, auto-immune issues, stress, mood issues and aches and pains. (1-4)

My Story with Cryotherapy

Dr Hannah’s Comments

Cryotherapy is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about as part of my own health maintenance and repair. … So thank you Heidy for doing the hard work for me! 🙂

I first heard of cryotherapy as a beneficial way of recovering from high-intensity exercise … and even though ultra marathon running technically isn’t high intensity, anything that assists in boosting recovery is a good thing.

When I first put cryotherapy to the test was when I suffered acute appendicitis in August 2018 requiring emergency surgery. Worst pain I’ve ever experienced second to none! Major credit to the team at Redcliffe Hospital for doing an exceptional job for what they described was a “very severe appendix on the cusp of bursting!”

When I released from hospital a day or so later, there were three places Natalie took me: in order, 1) the chemist to pickup the first lot of antibiotics I’d had in an exceptionally long time, 2) Fort Coffee, and then 3) Cryotherapy.

Being a solo practitioner, I knew that I needed to get back to work as soon (but safely) as possible. Granted, I pushed it a bit harder than I should have, but I was sensible enough not to do anything that recreated any nasty pain. Among taking ridiculous amounts of Vitamin C and starting a reasonable walking regime as quickly as I could, I visited Heidy 2x per week for a month to assist with my repair.

From inside the Grand Canyon 6 weeks after appendix surgery. I credit Redcliffe Hospital in doing an exceptional job & North Lakes Cryotherapy in helping with recovery for allowing us to do it!

I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I can share that I was walking normally again within a week, running within a month, and trail running/hiking/crawling (in the Grand Canyon) less than 2 months post-surgery. Since then, Natalie and I have used cryotherapy as a part of our general maintenance regime every time we have a mega weekend of running, or when we feel things falling into a bit of disrepair.

As a full disclaimer, in writing this part of the article, I wanted to find a bunch of citations to support my positive experience on the use of cryotherapy in post-op support and injury repair. The kicker was that much of the research to date finds little significant difference in pain levels or tissue-repair time vs common ice. (5-9)

… Then again, the same critique is often made of Upper Cervical Chiropractic when the potential combination of variables that affect a person’s recovery are much more than a single thing. In other words, it may seem that in a certain percent of the population that cryotherapy can – and does – make a massive difference in repair, recovery and their overall sense of wellbeing … We simply still have to learn how it works!

Its also been delightful to see a number of our own clients when they suffer actor injuries – e.g., severe back pain, disc damage, neck strains, etc – that they can use something like cryotherapy as a non-pharmaceutical option to assist in their recovery.

As I often describe when people are experiencing lots of pain, “If I don’t adjust you, you’re going to feel like hell for about a month. After I adjust you, you’re still going to feel like hell for about a week. But if you do the right things – including drinking water and now doing something like cryotherapy – you may be able to feel better sooner.”

References

  1. Guillot X, Tordi N, Mourot L, Demougeot C, Dugué B, Prati C, Wendling D. Cryotherapy in inflammatory rheumatic diseases: a systematic review. Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2014 Feb;10(2):281-94. doi: 10.1586/1744666X.2014.870036. Epub 2013 Dec 18.
  2. T Klimek, Andrzej & Lubkowska, Anna & Szygula, Zbigniew & Chudecka, Monika & Frączek, Barbara. Influence of the ten sessions of the whole body cryostimulation on aerobic and anaerobic capacity. International journal of occupational medicine and environmental health. 23 (2010). 181-9. 10.2478/v10001-010-0019-2
  3. Lubkowska, Anna & Szygula, Zbigniew & J Klimek, Andrzej & Torii, Masafumi. Do sessions of cryostimulation have influence on white blood cell count, level of IL6 and total oxidative and antioxidative status in healthy men?. European journal of applied physiology. 109 (2009). 67-72. 10.1007/s00421-009-1207-2.
  4. Lubkowska, Anna & Szygula, Zbigniew & Chlubek, Dariusz & Banfi, Giuseppe. The effect of prolonged whole-body cryostimulation treatment with different amounts of sessions on chosen pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels in healthy men. Scandinavian journal of clinical and laboratory investigation. 71 (2011). 419-25. 10.3109/00365513.2011.580859.
  5. Pournot, Hervé; Bieuzen, François; Louis, Julien; Mounier, Rémi; Fillard, Jean-Robert; Barbiche, Etienne; Hausswirth, Christophe (1 January 2011). “Time-course of changes in inflammatory response after whole-body cryotherapy multi exposures following severe exercise”. PLOS ONE. 6 (7): e22748. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022748. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3145670 . PMID 21829501.
  6. Crystal NJ, Townson DH, Cook SB, LaRoche DP. Effect of cryotherapy on muscle recovery and inflammation following a bout of damaging exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Oct;113(10):2577-86. doi: 10.1007/s00421-013-2693-9. Epub 2013 Jul 20.
  7. Krueger M, Costello JT, Achtzehn S, Dittmar KH, Mester J5. Whole-body cryotherapy (-110 °C) following high-intensity intermittent exercise does not alter hormonal, inflammatory or muscle damage biomarkers in trained males. Cytokine. 2018 Jul 18. pii: S1043-4666(18)30310-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2018.07.018. [Epub ahead of print]
  8. Noyes MP, Denard PJ. Continuous Cryotherapy vs Ice Following Total Shoulder Arthroplasty: A Randomized Control Trial. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ). 2018 Jun;47(6). doi: 10.12788/ajo.2018.0045.
  9. Ni SH, Jiang WT, Guo L, Jin YH, Jiang TL, Zhao Y, Zhao J. Cryotherapy on postoperative rehabilitation of joint arthroplasty. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2015 Nov;23(11):3354-61. doi: 10.1007/s00167-014-3135-x. Epub 2014 Jun 14.