Whole Body Cryotherapy – Does it Really Work?

Whole body cryotherpapy is quickly gaining its name in the fitness industry and these fancy machines appear be very futuristic, but do they work? These machines have been generating big buzz with mega-athletes like Lebron James and Floyd Mayweather admitting to have used them. So is this new machine just big buzz or does it really work?

What is Whole Body Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy in itself is cooling the body down in order to stimulate a therapeutic response. Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is an alternative approach to traditional icing and ice baths. It subjects your body to an extremely cold temperature (usually around -200 degrees F) for nearly 3 minutes long. WBC uses liquid nitrogen to cool the surrounding air. Next, the individual walks into the chamber with minimal clothing using protective gear, which typically includes, gloves, socks, and ear protectors. The process is not painful and should be supervised.

What is it used for?

Currently, individuals use WBC for recovery purposes following exercise routines, intense trainings, and wellness care. The ultimate goal of WBC is to decrease the surface temperature. Decreasing the temperature to the surrounding tissues helps reduce inflammation and stimulate a flush of new blood flow.

With regard to tissue repair, controlling proper blood flow is critical and by controlling the blood flow, you can help with things like delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), pain, chronic and acute inflammation, skin health, and metabolism.

Whole Body Cryotherapy Research

Tissue Temperature

If you are really looking to lower the temperature of the tissues, you may not have guessed but the traditional ice pack had seemed to be the best method as opposed to WBC and cold water immersion.

Inflammatory Chemicals

A study done to compare a simulated trail run using high level athletes found that during the 4 day recovery, there inflammatory chemicals were fairly similar. There had been some lower inflammatory markers in the WBC group at the 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours post exercise. Overall, there seemed to not be a huge difference.

Muscle damage

Interestingly enough, there had been no evidence indicating that WBC had affected markers that signal muscle damage

Oxidative Stress

Using WBC had increased the number of anti-oxidants when comparing the untreated group, however, there was difficulty concluding the free radical production. Another crossover study was done with Olympic athletes and surprisingly, there had been anti-oxidants lower than the group that used cryotherapy.

Autonomic Nervous System

Following immediate use of cryotherapy, there had been larger numbers of nor-epinephrine concentrations. Also, the group using cryotherapy had indicated that the largest effect on parasympathetic reactivation.

Perceived and functional recovery

The research seemed to show that there is a better recovery and there had been improvements with regard to strength, pain, and subjective fatigue when individuals underwent cryotherapy 24 and 48 hours after training.

Study Conclusion

WBC does help with tissue temperature reduction that may be similar to cold-water immersion but seems to be less effective than an ice pack. There had been improvements in inflammatory chemicals, anti-oxidant, and autonomic effects. There seems to also be some improvement in soreness, pain, and functional recovery, however, the research study stated that these results are preliminary and if needed, the much less expensive and traditional cryotherapy offer comparable benefits.

Additionally, another study demonstrated that cold-water immersion was more beneficial in accelerating recovery and reducing muscle soreness as well as perceived recovery levels 24-48 hours post exercise.

Final Thoughts

Whole body cryotherapy likely does help with discomfort and pain and other areas of recovery. It is a quick and easy process to do if you have the available cash and really dislike the cold-water immersion baths or ice packs. I have no doubt that there will be more significant research showing the benefits.

Keep in mind that if you really do have some significant inflammation and pain, using the WBC may be at a disadvantage as it uses air, which is a poor conductor and will not significantly cool the tissues.

For more information about muscle recovery and ice, click here.


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