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Cryotherapy: Crazy Fad or Cool Tool?

August 31, 2020

The worst part about going hard at the gym? The recovery process. Sore muscles can really suck the wind out of you (literally). When you’re trying to stay consistent, dealing with muscle soreness is the last thing that you need – which is why what you do to recover is just as important as your workout. We’ve talked about how important nutrition and foam rolling are but have you heard of cryotherapy? That’s why we’re here today, to dive into the cryotherapy trend to see if it’s just a crazy fad or the cool tool you need for rapid muscle recovery.

 

What the Heck is Cryotherapy?

Is it just us, or does cryotherapy sound like something they’d try to sell on one of those goofy infomercials? Just us? Ok. 

Cryotherapy has been around for a while. Although it’s evolved into some pretty high-tech stuff, cryotherapy was originally used by the Ancient Egyptians to treat minor injuries and inflammation. 

But today, we’re talking about whole body cryotherapy (WBC), which didn’t exist until the late 1970s when it was developed as a method to help treat rheumatoid arthritis. The word cryotherapy is derived from the Greek words “cryo” (cold) and “therapeia” (therapy or cure). Today, medical professionals use cryotherapy to treat pain and inflammation. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts worldwide also use cryotherapy to help speed up the recovery process after particularly intense workouts. 

 

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Image Source

 

How Does Cryotherapy Work?

Phew! You just killed that Crossfit class, and your muscles are SCREAMING at you. And you know that you’ll be feeling it tomorrow. But what if you want to go hard again tomorrow?

The key to speeding up recovery is learning how to boost the muscle repair process. If you’re wanting to hit it hard again tomorrow, you will have to jump-start that muscle repair process. Sleep, hydration, and proper nutrition are all 200% essential to recovering from your sweat seshes, but cryotherapy might reduce recovery time even more. 

But how exactly does cryotherapy work? Let’s explore the science of it.

A typical WBC session lasts only a few minutes – on average, between two and five minutes. During this time, the chamber around your body uses argon or nitrogen gas to drop the surrounding temperature to -100 to -140 degrees Celsius.

When the body is exposed to short periods of intense cold, it sends your body into a defense mode. Because your body thinks it’s going to freeze to death, your muscles constrict, and your arterial blood pressure immediately increases. 

As the blood rushes through your body, it picks up oxygen and nutrients – and at a much quicker pace. Not only does this rush of nutrients and oxygen help with repairing the muscles, but it can also help whisk away that pesky lactic acid that causes muscle soreness. This muscle constriction and increased blood flow also helps reduce inflammation.

 

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Is it Worth It?

It can be. 

The results from scientific studies vary widely. While there’s no overwhelmingly conclusive evidence that suggests that cryotherapy reduces the amount of torn muscle post-workout, it has been shown to reduce soreness. And that, friends, is exactly what you might need to keep going hard every day at the gym. 

Plus, other preliminary studies suggest that it also has a range of other benefits – like boosting your metabolism (and improve weight loss), promoting mental clarity, and giving you younger-looking skin.

There can be some downsides to it, starting with the fact that it’s not FDA approved, and can cause adverse side effects such as skin irritations and medical conditions like asthma. You should always check with your doctor before incorporating cryotherapy into your regular fitness routine. And we’re not gonna lie – it can be expensive. Each session can range from $20 to $80, which can add up to hundreds of dollars over multiple sessions. 

But, if you’re looking to reduce muscle soreness post-workout, then cryotherapy might be just the thing you need. So when you hit the gym tomorrow, you won’t have to worry about aching muscles taking the wind out of your sails. Plus, jumping into a freezing chamber first thing in the morning might be a great substitute for that morning cup o’ joe. 

Taryn W

Author

Taryn Willis is an avid fitness junkie. Born and raised in Indiana, she grew up playing sports and continues to this day. When she’s not spoiling her three furbabies, she’s busy kickboxing, running, doing some deep downward dog yoga, or playing intramural soccer. A creative mastermind and wordsmith by nature, she graduated from Indiana University in 2020 with a degree in Communication Studies. She currently writes for several publications as a freelance blogger and copywriter.