Facts and Fakes of cryotherapy:
At the end of winter in Sydney, the water temperature has dropped to 14 degrees (sorry fellow Dutchies, that sounds like heaven to you), it seems a good time to discuss Cryotherapy. Cryo just means cold, hence taking an ice bath or in physiotherapy applying ice on joints or muscle tissue.
Ice cold believers and high performing athletes believe cryotherapy can speed up recovery, reduce injuries, muscle soreness and pain. There probably isn’t enough high quality evidence to support this in clinical practice.
Fact: The first thing that I found was that there was very little controlled research done on cryotherapy, certainly less than I would have thought considering how much money there is in professional sports. And the research that is out there compares warn to cold, assuming that cold therapy is beneficial.
Fact: Cryotherapy may assist in reducing pain. You only need to apply for 1-3 minutes no more or till the pain level decreases earlier." In fact: use ice and when you’re numb, you’re done. Slide the ice slow but steady over the painful area. It’s important to keep moving if you use an ice cube. Areas with thick tissue, like the top of the thigh, will take longer to get numb. Thin areas, like the side of the knee, will usually go numb quickly.
Fake: Why the first aid rule icing for 20 minutes against pain and swelling exists? Don’t get me started!!! while short icing might reduce pain, there is very little evidence to support using cryotherapy to reduce swelling and promote healing!
Fake: The current evidence is insufficient to support the use of (whole-body) cryotherapy for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise. University of Portsmouth's department of sport and exercise science in the U.K referred to only four studies examining the benefits of this treatment for reducing muscle soreness after exercise. “Unfortunately, this included only 64 participants, and as a result we cannot definitely conclude whether or not this treatment is effective”
Fact: we know that when patients get told that icing reduces pain, this information only can boost neurotransmitters. So, even if whole-body cryotherapy does not influence directly physiological, someone who believes it is, might experience a powerful placebo effect that could be beneficial to recovery,”
Having said all of this, you might have come across Wim Hoff, the Ice man, who puts brain over matter with his unusual resistance to cold. The findings suggest that his method could be relevant for management of some autoimmune and psychiatric disorders. Hof established several world records for prolonged resistance to cold exposure, an ability he attributes to a self-developed set of techniques of breathing and meditation -- known as the Wim Hof Method. Yet, how his brain responds during cold exposure and what brain mechanisms may endow him with this resistance have not been studied -- until now. This kind of techniques are not new and also described by monks while meditation and willfully regulation skin temperature. All very interesting for the future of ice ice babyyyyyy.
Fact: As you are probably not a top athlete, reading my post, it might be better for you to focus on rest, rehydration, refueling and allowing the body enough time to repair.
van den Bekerom, Michel PJ, et al. “What is the evidence for rest, ice, compression, and elevation therapy in the treatment of ankle sprains in adults?.” Journal of athletic training 47.4 (2012): 435-443.
Bleakley, C. M., Bieuzen, F., Davison, G. W., & Costello, J. T. (2014). Whole-body cryotherapy: empirical evidence and theoretical perspectives. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 5, 25–36. http://doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S41655
Bongers, C. C. W. G., Hopman, M. T. E., & Eijsvogels, T. M. H. (2017). Cooling interventions for athletes: An overview of effectiveness, physiological mechanisms, and practical considerations. Temperature: Multidisciplinary Biomedical Journal, 4(1), 60–78. http://doi.org/10.1080/23328940.2016.1277003
Collins NC. Is ice right? Does cryotherapy improve outcome for acute soft tissue injury? Emerg Med J. 2008 Feb;25(2):65–8. PubMed #18212134.
Costello JT1, Baker PR, Whole-body cryotherapy (extreme cold air exposure) for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Sep 18;(9):CD010789. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010789.pub2.
Lubkowska A1, Szyguła Z, et al The effect of prolonged whole-body cryostimulation treatment with different amounts of sessions on chosen pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines levels in healthy men. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2011 Sep;71(5):419-25. doi: 10.3109/00365513.2011.580859. Epub 2011 May 16.
Malanga GA, Yan N, Stark J. Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury. Postgrad Med. 2015 Jan;127(1):57–65. PubMed #25526231.
Otto Muzik, Kaice T. Reilly, Vaibhav A. Diwadkar. “Brain over body”–A study on the willful regulation of autonomic function during cold exposure. NeuroImage, 2018; 172: 632 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.01.067
Tiidus, Peter M. “Alternative treatments for muscle injury: massage, cryotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen.” Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine (2015): 1-6.