Cryotherapy: 5 Reasons to Believe the Hype


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Written by: Sarah Norvilas, L.Ac.

It’s 9:30 on a Saturday morning and you’ve been invited to test out one of the newest forms of pain management for inflammatory conditions.

At first, it’s easy to mistake the experience for a day at the spa. Furry robe, check. Warm socks and slippers, check. Submerging yourself in a chamber where the internal temperatures reach as low as -240 degrees…

Wait, what?!

The technology is called Cryotherapy and, since its introduction in the United States five years ago, it is quickly becoming one of the most sought after resources for treating everything from postoperative swelling and pain to facial rejuvenation.

Where Did It Come From?

Cryotherapy was born in Japan in the late 1970’s as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and has become mainstream throughout Japan and Europe over the last three decades for the treatment of inflammatory conditions.

How Does It Work?

The technology is simple. The user is placed in a capsule wearing only their undergarments, socks and gloves (these are necessary to protect the extremities from possible cold injury).

For two minutes, a nitrogen gas is pumped into the chamber while a technician slowly takes the temperature down between -200 and -240 degrees. Due to the severe cold, the majority of circulation is rushed to the core of the body, causing the blood vessels in the arms and legs to constrict.

Additionally, the skin’s exposure to such extreme temperatures causes the body to release anti-inflammatory cytokines as well as endorphins.

What Is The Aftermath Like?

It’s cold. Really cold. You find yourself doing a little dance inside the chamber and just as you start to feel your legs tingling – you’re done. 120 seconds in the tundra.

The technician immediately takes the temperature of your legs – 21 degrees fahrenheit. Mind you, this is not your body temperature. It is a topical reading that started at 90 degrees. The two-minute exposure is not enough to impact the core temperature, but it is enough to penetrate into the subdermal tissue.

You are back in the warm air. You feel a rush of adrenaline and can’t stop smiling. You’ve never felt so awake! Your legs and arms have turned a bright shade of pink that lasts for around 30 minutes. They are freezing to the touch, but you’re comfortable and happy and can immediately resume your day.

So What Does This Mean For You Exactly?

1. Less inflammation equals faster healing and recovery times.

2. Exposure to extreme cold causes a temporary boost in the body’s metabolism. Burn those calories, baby!

3. Vasoconstriction can naturally reduce pain from chronic conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

4. Turn back the hands of time! Cellular constriction – due to the cold temperatures followed by a rush of vasodilatation – can naturally boost the body’s collagen production and oxygenation to dermal cells.

5. That endorphin boost from the cold can last up to 8 hours! You may feel more alert and treatment has been shown to help some people with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

As one who is ever on the hunt for the newest therapies to integrate into my practice, I’d have to say, from what I’ve seen, Cryotherapy could prove to be an effective treatment for many inflammatory conditions.  As with all therapies, recommended use will vary depending on condition, severity, age and current health of potential clients. Cryotherapy is not for everyone, so it is always best to check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new regimen of care.  

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Sarah Norvilas
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Sarah Norvilas

Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist and Integrative Medicine Practitioner at Nine Acupuncture
Sarah Norvilas is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and integrative medicine practitioner practicing in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica California. Upon opening her first clinic, she quickly realized that education was imperative in order to empower each of her patients with the proper tools to maintain their health long after they left her care. She integrates eastern methodologies, nutrition, detoxification and the mind, body, spirit connection into her practice. Her specialties include reproductive medicine, orthopedics and digestive disorders.
Sarah Norvilas
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