What is the history of whole body cryotherapy?

Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) was first used in Japan by Dr. Toshiro Yamauchi in the late 1970s to treat pain and rheumatoid arthritis. The therapy then became popular in Europe where it’s been used for more than 30 years prior to coming to the United States. Studies conducted over the last two decades have established WBC as a powerful treatment for inflammatory disorders and injuries.

What is whole body cryotherapy (WBC)?

WBC is provided in a cryosauna. Open at the top and equipped with a door and a platform that is adjusted to each customer’s height. The customer stands in a nitrogen-cooled cryosauna (or cryochamber) for a duration of 1-3 minutes. While in the cryotherapy session, the skin’s temperature lowers, stimulated receptors activate a central nervous system response (fight or flight) and vasoconstriction occurs. During this cooling process, the blood rushes to the core of the body to protect vital organs. Once the session ends, the body immediately starts the rewarming process, vasodilation begins and supplies the body and extremities with newly oxygenated blood. Although these arctic temperatures may seem unbearable, the short process is very tolerable and many enjoy the results, as they feel invigorated afterwards.

What are the primary benefits of whole body cryotherapy?

Below are some of the common benefits that customers of cryotherapy have reported:

  • Reduction of inflammation
  • Relief of joint and muscle pain
  • Easing of muscle soreness
  • Increased energy
  • Improved mood
  • Elevated overall sense of well-being

How does a cryosauna work?

A cryosauna is cooled using liquid nitrogen to expose the body to ultra-low temperatures, as low as -200° F. The skin’s surface temperature is lowered by 30-50° F over a period of 2-3 minutes. The core body temperature remains unchanged throughout the process, however, it may drop slightly afterwards.

What happens to the body physiologically during a cryotherapy session?

While in the cryosauna, as the surface of the skin is cooled, blood is pulled inward to the core, causing peripheral vasoconstriction, sending the blood to the core of the body to protect the internal organs. After exiting the cryosauna, the skin immediately begins to rewarm. The blood is pumped back to the extremities, which is now filled with higher levels of oxygen and nutrients.

Is a cryosauna safe and tested?

Yes, it’s been used in Asia and Europe for over 30 years and in the United States for almost 10. A trained cryosauna operator must always be present during a session to monitor the customer’s comfort and safety.

Have cryosaunas been approved or evaluated by the FDA?

Cryosaunas have been evaluated by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and they have concluded that cryosaunas are not medical devices. Cryosaunas are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.

Who shouldn’t experience whole body cryotherapy?

The following is a list of conditions that are contraindicated to have a cryotherapy session. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult with your personal physician to obtain clearance for a cryotherapy session. Untreated hypertension Recent cardiovascular issues such as heart attack Unstable angina pectoris Arrhythmia Angina Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or circulatory dysfunction Pacemaker Cold intolerance/allergy to cold Cold-activated asthma Acute or recent cerebrovascular accident Uncontrolled seizures Raynaud’s Syndrome Flu or fever Pregnancy

How long does it take?

One of the biggest advantages of the whole body cryotherapy is its time convenience. A cryotherapy session lasts no longer than three (3) minutes!

Is one treatment enough?

Many experience noticeable differences after just one treatment, but best results typically occur when multiple sessions are completed within a one to three week time frame.

How soon can one expect to see results and feel benefits?

Many people feel great after the first treatment because of the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevator. This lift may last for several hours to several days. Depending on your physical condition, you may feel immediate relief from joint and muscle pain, improved energy, and increased flexibility that will last for several hours or even days.

Is whole body cryotherapy just for athletes?

Absolutely not! From the young to the old, most everyone can experience and feel the results of even just one cryotherapy session.

What do I wear during a cryotherapy session?

Typically, just the undergarments are worn, but women can be nude and men must wear their underwear (briefs, boxers or shorts). All cryotherapy locations should provide a robe, warm socks and gloves as well as protective footwear … all to protect the extremities and ensure comfort during the cryotherapy session.

Do I take a shower before or after a cryotherapy session?

No, in fact you want to be completely dry before a cryotherapy session. A cryotherapy session is completely dry and does not make your skin wet.

Is cryotherapy uncomfortable to experience?

Those that have done cryotherapy just once or even multiple times, haven’t reported a cryotherapy session as being so uncomfortable that they wouldn’t do it again. Yes, it’s cold, but it’s a DRY cold that is very tolerable, especially for the short period of time. The cryotherapy session never freezes the skin tissues or organs. Only the sensation of being cold is perceived.

Can I have a cryotherapy session if I have joint replacements or plate implants?

Absolutely. As long as the plate or joint replacement is covered by skin, you can reap the benefits of cryotherapy. In fact, many have experienced improved recovery times after surgery and less pain in the joint.

Can I use have a cryotherapy session if I’m claustrophobic?

Yes. Because it’s open at the top and adjusted to your height, your head and neck are always above the opening. Also, the door is closed – but not locked – so you always have control. Be sure to communicate your concerns to your cryotherapy attendant so that they can closely monitor the session.

Is whole body cryotherapy covered by insurance?

Multiple research studies have been published in medical journals about the effects of whole body cryotherapy, and in many European countries the treatments are covered by medical insurance policies. At this time, in the United States, whole body cryotherapy is considered a non-medical wellness modality. As such, health insurances do not currently offer reimbursements for the service.

Is nitrogen dangerous for humans?

No, it isn’t. Nitrogen is a non-toxic, odorless, natural gas. The air that we breathe is made up of 20% Oxygen, 78% Nitrogen and 2% of other components. Although nitrogen is non-toxic, when released into an enclosed space it can displace oxygen, and therefore presents an asphyxiation hazard. All cryotherapy locations should be equipped with an oxygen sensor used as a safety precaution when working with nitrogen. It will sound an alert when the oxygen level is below a set level.

How does whole body cryotherapy compare to an ice bath?

It doesn’t. It’s like comparing apples to oranges! You are simply unable to achieve the same results with an ice bath as you experience in cryotherapy. During an ice bath, the cold actually penetrates into deeper skin tissue and can be damaging to the skin. In a cryosauna, the deeper layers of the skin are never penetrated, yet the body responds on a deeper level.

How will I feel after a cryotherapy session?

Each person will have a different experience and feel differently … from pain reduction and relief of muscle soreness to increased energy levels and sleeping better. The more sessions of cryotherapy experienced, the better and/or more successful the benefits.

Can I work out immediately before or after a cryotherapy session?

Yes. In fact, it is recommended. There will be positive results and benefits at either time.

Can I catch a cold from having a whole body cryotherapy session?

No. A cold is caused by contact with fluids that contain a cold virus – these are launched into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. There are no fluids or contact with fluids during a cryotherapy session. Whole body cryotherapy can actually stimulate the immune system and actually help decrease the severity and/or frequency of colds and similar viral or bacterial conditions.

How often can I have a cryotherapy session?

For best results, 2-3 times a week. It is safe to have two sessions in a day with a 4+ hour break, but it is truly recommended only for those in heavy training or rehab.

Is there a height or weight limit for those having a cryotherapy session?

It is best to check with you local cryotherapy location. Each cryosauna is a little different and may have restrictions in regard to height and weight. In general, you will have to be able to stand comfortably within the cryosauna without touching the sides and be tall enough (with the platform adjusted) to have your head out of the top of the cryosauna in order to have a cryotherapy experience.

Are there age restrictions?

Yes and no. Check with you local cryotherapy location for details. It is highly recommended that anyone under 18 have a valid reason for doing cryotherapy. If a location does allow those under 18 to experience cryotherapy, they will most certainly be required to have parental consent and waiver sign-off. Consult with your physician for best practices and recommendations.

What are the potential risks of whole body cryotherapy?

Whole body cryotherapy is very well tolerated for most and has minimal risks. Those risks include: fluctuations in blood pressure during the procedure by up to 10 points systolic (this effect reverses after the end of the procedure, as peripheral circulation returns to normal); allergic reaction to extreme cold (rare); and activation of some viral conditions (cold sores) etc. due to stimulation of the immune system.