The emerging medical field of cryotherapy, or the use of subfreezing temperatures to numb pain or kill targeted areas of cells, has been around for thousands of years, since people started applying ice packs to sore muscles or injuries to reduce swelling and pain.
Another incarnation of cryotherapy that’s been gaining popularity over the last several years is whole-body cryotherapy (WBC), originally developed as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. It entails wearing minimal clothing and stepping into a tank or room typically cooled from about -110 degrees to as low as -140 degrees for 2 to 4 minutes though some providers state their chambers get as cold as -300 degrees.
Proponents say the shock of the extreme cold triggers the body to go into “repair mode,” which fights inflammation, triggers the release of chemicals that reduce pain and elevate mood and aids weight loss by raising metabolism. WBC has also been reported to improve skin health, asthma, migraines and other chronic pain, anxiety and other conditions.
Professional athletes, who earlier popularized the use of ice baths and other forms of cold therapy for post-workout recovery, began to try whole-body cryotherapy to treat injuries. Their self-reported results led celebrities and other influencers to seek it out for a myriad of health conditions.
Full-body cryotherapy tanks are being offered by an increasing number of spas and wellness centers as word of their potential benefits spreads. Do your research and consult your doctor to determine whether the procedure is safe for you.