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10 Benefits of Cryotherapy

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

It might seem odd to sit in a freezing cold tank in the name of health and healing, but cold therapy, or cryotherapy, can actually be very good for your body. Cooling your body down from time to time can have some interesting health benefits. In this article, you can learn all about the top benefits of cryotherapy and why you might want to give it a try.

I will cover:

 

What is cryotherapy?

Illustration of cryotherapy chamber, whole-body cold therapy.


Cryotherapy literally means “cold therapy.” It is a technique where part or all of your body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for a short period of time.

During the treatment, you may sit with your body inside of a cryotherapy chamber. Cryotherapy can also be applied in localized areas through things like ice baths, ice packs, and other cooling methods.

Informal versions of cryotherapy might involve taking a cold shower or bath to get the same cooling, freezing effect on the body.

 

The effects of cryotherapy in the body

So why would you ever want to get into an icy chamber or a freezing cold shower? It turns out that extreme cold can actually cause beneficial effects in the body.

Since the Stone Age, the human body has adapted to various extreme conditions such as starvation and freezing temperatures. And while long-term freezing can be harmful to the body, a little bit of cold from time to time can actually be very beneficial to the body.

Illustrated drawing of thermometer in snow, cold temperatures, snowflakes, freezing.


You see, extreme cold creates something called the hormetic effect. Hormesis refers to the idea that a small amount of stress on the body can actually be a good thing and make your body stronger. Learn more about this concept here.

For example, think of exercise. Overdoing it with too much or too extreme exercise can have harmful effects. But short bursts of exercise help you to grow stronger muscles, repair, and feel better. It is good for you to put a small amount of stress on your body in the form of exercise.

The same idea applies to freezing. Long-term exposure to the stress of cold is harmful, but small amounts of icy cold temperatures can promote a beneficial effect in the body.

Certain genes, proteins, and enzymes get activated when you put your body in cold temperatures. Whether it involves using a cryotherapy chamber or just taking a cold shower, you can activate certain genes that are good for your health.
3D illustration of DNA, showing genetic material, activated genes.


Here are some of the things that happen in the body when you are exposed to extreme cold from time to time:

  • Stimulation of satellite cells. Satellite cells are like pre-muscle cells (similar to stem cells) that can turn into a muscle cell when needed. Because cold exposure increases satellite cell activity, it can help to repair muscles when they are damaged. It may also help to relieve muscle soreness for this reason.
  • Increased activity of kinase enzymes. One thing that kinase enzymes do is to increase muscle synthesis. This is another reason why cryotherapy is good for the muscles, and why it may help to repair your muscles after injury or damage.
  • Suppression of genes that regulate inflammation. Cryotherapy can help to lower inflammation levels in the body. And this isn’t just due to the vasoconstriction that occurs due to contact with cold (like putting an ice pack on an injury). It actually also works on a genetic level, turning on and off certain genes that are involved in the inflammatory response. The ability of environmental factors to turn genes off and on is called epigenetics.
  • Increase in the number of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy centers of the body. Having more mitochondria around can help to increase our metabolism and impact our energy regulation in a positive way.
     

These effects and more can create some incredible health benefits that may make cryotherapy worth a try.

 

10 benefits of cryotherapy

When our bodies are exposed to cold temperatures, a lot of internal changes occur that positively affect our health and wellbeing. Here are some of the benefits of cryotherapy that you may want to know about:

  1. Decreases muscle soreness and repairs muscle damage. As mentioned above, certain things get activated in the body in cold temperatures, many of which are related to rebuilding and repairing muscle. This allows cryotherapy to help out with muscle soreness and injury.
  2. Boosts immune activity. Cryotherapy may increase immune system function and help you to fight off sickness and infection.
  3. Lowers inflammation. Exposure to cold can turn off and on genes, including those related to inflammation. So aside from the physical effects of the cold on your blood vessels, cryotherapy also helps reduce inflammation on a genetic level.
  4. Increases mood. Have you ever tried getting into a cold shower? If so, you know that you’ll experience the exhilaration and a boost in the mood very quickly.
  5. It helps you sleep. The benefits of cryotherapy in your body may be able to help promote a better night’s sleep.
  6. Improves metabolism. Cryotherapy promotes mitochondria production, which can help you to boost your metabolism.
  7. Increases the antioxidant network. Another thing that happens in the body is that antioxidant levels can increase. Antioxidants help to protect your body from damage.
  8. Reduces oxidative stress. When antioxidant activity increases, your body is able to reduce the effects of oxidative stress. That is important for staying healthy and avoiding health concerns.
  9. Improves herniated discs. If you are dealing with herniated discs, then cryotherapy might be worth looking into for supporting your healing.
  10. It decreases pain and spasms. Due to all of its healing effects in the body, cryotherapy can be useful for supporting pain and muscle spasms.

Black and white photo of woman with hand on back of neck and shoulder, muscle pain shown in red.


 

The bottom line

Have you ever tried cryotherapy? This ice-cold technique is all about putting your body into cold temperatures for a short period of time to promote healing effects.

Our bodies thrive under small amounts of short-term stress, because certain genes, enzymes, and proteins can be activated that support our health when we encounter small stressors. And freezing cold temperatures are one factor that can induce these beneficial effects.

Cryotherapy may have various benefits in the body, including:

  1. Decreasing muscle soreness and repairing the damage.
  2. Improving the immune system function.
  3. Reducing inflammation.
  4. Boosting mood.
  5. Promoting good sleep.
  6. Improving metabolism.
  7. Increasing antioxidants.
  8. Reducing oxidative stress.
  9. Supporting herniated discs.
  10. Lowering pain and reducing spasms.

Woman in cold shower screaming, shocked in freezing cold water.


Try finding a cryotherapy specialist in your area, or even just try taking a really cold shower every so often. And see how you feel!

Have you ever experienced the benefits of cryotherapy? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.
 

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