Cryotherapy and its history
Whole body cryotherapy, as we know it, was developed in the late 70’s in Japan by Dr. Toshima Yamauchi. This doctor found a method to cool the body surface using nitrogen in gaseous state avoiding freezing the subcutaneous part. Dr. Yamauchi used it for with therapeuthical purposes to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
The ancient Egyptians already used cold therapies as beauty and wellness treatments. Its effectiveness has been demonstrated with time. Lowering the skin surface’s temperature leads to releasing endorphins, producing a feeling of wellness and pain relief.
The investigations carried out in the last two decades, specially in Europe and Germany (Dr. Fricke) and Poland (Dr. Zagrobelny), have confirmed the therapeuthc efficacy of the cryotherapy in many areas. The main investigation lines are related with treatment of pain and musculoskeletal disorders.
In Spain, TIME has develop Cryosense cryosauna. The most advanced cryotherapy cabin on the market. Creating the Thermal Contrast Technology System (TCT System). It combines cold and heat in order to increase the benefits of the treatment..
What is cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy consists in the exposure of the body surface to very low temperatures (between -110º to -196ºC), for a short period of time (from 2 to 4 minutes). This is possible thanks to the use of the evaporated liquid nitrogen, always in a controlled environment and under medical supervision. Extreme conditions of cold are used to create a body response. This response has three levels: circulatory, muscular and neuroendocrine.
The reduction in the superficial skin temperature stimulates the thermoreceptors (sensors that react with cold stimulations). Thermoreceptors send a signal to the brain in order to generate a response as a defense mechanism to the imminent hypothermia situation.
Cryotherapy with Cryosense
How does cryotherapy affect the organism?
The application of cold in cryotherapy involves the spinal marrow. This way, the effect is produced throughout the whole body. In contrast, localized cryotherapy is limited to a few segments of the marrow, so the effect is mainly located in the area of application.
Main effects of cryotherapy
- An analgesic effect: cryotherapy has proved to be very effective in the treatment of acute and chronic pain. This is the case of patients with fibromyalgia. The extreme cold of the cryotherapy decreases the speed of nerve conduction and inhibits nociceptive fibers, helping to reduce the feeling of pain.
- Anti-inflammatory effect: cryotherapy has an influence in the inflammatory process in a similar way as explained in the case of pain relief. The application of extreme cold on the skin causes a reduction of hyperfusion dependent on inflammation through vasoconstriction. It also causes the desensitization of the nociceptors, a reduction of the muscular tone and a reduction of mediators of inflammation.
- Metabolic activation: the extreme cold generated inside the cabin produces some reactions in the organism in order to compensate the decrease in the temperature of the outer surface of the skin. It activates the metabolism and the mobilization of accumulated fats. It can burn between 200 and 800 kilocalories per session. The loss of kilocalories is not only during the three minutes of the application of cold, but also during the next six hours
- Relaxation: cryotherapy promotes the release of endorphins and serotonin,as well as, other natural substances that produce a feeling of well-being and that help to combat stress.
The shock effect produced by extreme cold generates the following effects:
- It produces a vasoconstriction followed by a vasodilatation. Due to the extreme cold, the brain sends a signal to transport blood to the vital organs. There, blood is enriched with oxygen and another nutrients and toxins are purified. After exiting the cryosauna the vasodilatation takes place: enriched blood goes back to the peripheral systems of the body.
- It releases substances as endorphins, that produce a feeling of well-being.
- Through neuroreflexive mechanisms, positive results are obtained regarding pain sensitivity and inflammatory processes.
What applications does cryotherapy have? Sport, Health, Aesthetic, Wellness
How does cryotherapy act in chronic pain? How long does it last?
As explained above, the cold has a great analgesic power and cryotherapy, unlike the application of localized cold, involves the entire spinal marrow so the effect is wider. A three-minute stay inside the cold cabin can inhibit and reduce chronic pain for several hours. After a number of sessions, the effect is multiplied and relieves the pain for several weeks.
The nerve fibers responsible for sending the feeling of cold to the brain are quicker than the ones responsible for sending pain signals. When the two nerve pathways are excited they experience a competition between them. The quickest inhibit the action of the slowest, so the body identifies the cold impulse more urgent, inhibiting the pain signals. It desensitizes or even deactivates nociceptors, reducing the capability to detect pain stimuli.
How does the anti-inflammatory effect appear with cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy modifies systemic defense functions centrally regulated, including the located inflammatory process. The inflammation is a physiological process of healing the body; it’s essential and necessary for the protection of healthy tissues and the reparation of the injured ones. As consequence of its application it’s produces:
- Vasomotor effects. When applying cold on the body surface a cutaneous vasoconstriction is produced. The reduction in the blood flow is also observed at joint level. This phase is followed by a vasodilatation of deep vessel (Lewis phenomenon), that favors the lymphatic drainage.
- Metabolic effects. There is a decrease in the consumption of oxygen and a decrease in the metabolism of the affected area. This causes the reduction in the secretion of inflammatory mediators and also reduces pain.
- Sensory-motor effects. The cold reduced the pain threshold of the nociceptors and decreases the speed of nerve conduction.
- Neuromuscular effects. The cold causes a reduction in the spasticity. It is produced by two mechanisms: first, the decrease of the gamma hyperactivity and second, the decrease in muscle spindle. This process produces a reduction of the muscular tone and breaks the spasm-contracture-pain cycle.
How does the cryotherapy act at the metabolic level?
It has proven the efficiency of the cellulitis treatment, sagging and fat accumulation. The extreme cold generated inside the cryotherapy cabin provokes a reaction in the organism in order to compensate the decrease of the body surface temperature. It produces an activation of the metabolism and a mobilization of the accumulated fats. Between 200 and 800 kilocalories can be burned in one session.
What substances are released and which effects are produced in the body with cryotherapy?
The main substances that the organism releases are endorphins and serotonin.
Endorphins are neuropeptides that are released through the spinal marrow and the blood stream. It promotes calm and creates a state of wellness. It improves the mood and releases the pain. It delays the aging process. It boosts the immune system function. It also counteracts high levels associated with anxiety.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter located in different regions of the central nervous system, related with the emotional state. It also intervenes in the regulation of the appetite. It influence in the sexual desire and the motor activity. It favors the sleep and the wakefulness. In addition, it helps the perceptive and cognitive functions.
Does the cryotherapy have contraindications?
- As general guideline, it is not recommended its use in people with heart problems.
- If the session wants to be taken after the meal, it is recommended to wait two hours so the digestion can be completely done.
- Should not undergo cryotherapy, or must be consulted with the doctor, people that have some of the following situations: critical state, decompensation of the chronic cardiovascular diseases, acute myocardial infarction, heart failure in stage II, unfavorable prognostic heart rate, high blood pressure (≥180/100 mm Hg), brain hemorrhage, vascular diseases (Raynaud´s syndrome, systemic vasculitis, cryoglobulinemia, agammaglobulinemia, cryofibrinogenemia), fever with more than 37.5 ºC, tuberculosis, malignant tumors, hemorrhagic diathesis, severe anemia, hyperthyroidism, hysterical neurosis, intolerance to the cold, cold urticaria, pregnancy and under 15 years old people.
Which precautions must be taken?
- Taking off metallic objects (earrings, rings, piercing, etc.)
- Wear protection for the feet.
- Enter in the cabin in underwear. Brassiere and panties if you are a woman, and slip if you are a man (recommended cotton material) and socks.
- Make sure the skin is completely dry.
- Do not use any cream before the session. Remains of body cream in the surface of the skin must be removed.
- In the case of having piercings that cannot be removed they must be covered with adhesive tape.
- The head should be out of the cabin. So the cabin will be adjusted to that.
- The safety collar must be placed and adjusted to the neck in order to avoid the escape of the vapors into the respiratory tract during the session.
Who uses cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is increasing widespread in high competition sport. In USA this kind of treatment is implemented among clubs and athletes in order to take care of their preparation and recovering. Worldwide, the growth of this technique is also remarkable.
Most teams in NBA, baseball and American football use cryotherapy regularly. Great sports stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Conor McGregor, Gareth Bale and many others also use this treatment as part of their preparation. For example, Real Madrid, Villarreal, UD Las Palmas or Arizona Cardinals have their own Cryosense cabin.
Outside of sports, some countries such as Poland, prescribe up to 20 sessions of cryotherapy through the public sanitary system to treat patients with pain (chronic or acute) or inflammatory problems.