Ice Ice Baby… Efficacy of the new trend- Whole Body Cryotherapy (Thanks Lindsay Lohan & Arizona News)

Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) is described as exposing the entire human body to -200°F to -250°F for up to 3 minutes. Some people claim that WBC results in several health, performance, and beauty benefits, however science does not support many….if any of these claims.

Scottsdale Cryotherapy provides a giant list of health, performance and beauty claims that it helps to improve or cure…you can view it for yourself at http://www.scottsdalecryotherapy.com. Due to the massive amount of time it would take for me to look at every single claim…(there are a ton), I have only looked at a handful of these claims. In addition, several of these claims had absolutely no supportive scientific evidence. If there is a specific claim that you would like more information on that I have not provided, shoot me a message and I will gladly look into it for you if there is anything on the topic. I will most likely be adding on to these claims in the future.

The following are the list of claims that I did find research on and will be blogging about today:

  • Arthritis
  • Improved recovery time
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Depression
  • Headaches

The following are a list of claims that I did look into and there was not one single study on:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle spasm
  • Psoriasis
  • “Muscular dysbalances”- whatever those are…
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress Relief

As far as the beauty claims, no evidence supports them. My guess is that they are using Photoshop to advertise.

ARTHRITIS

  • There were no significant differences in arthritic pain or inflammation when comparing WBC to other methods (Demoulin et al., 2012).High cost, limited availability , and possible side effects suggest that WBC is not superior to other methods (Demoulin et al., 2012).
  • One study showed decreased pain after both WBC (for 2 minutes) and swimming in ice cold water (for 20 seconds) resulted in significant increases in norepinephrine which may be responsible for acute analgesic effects of cryotherapy (Leppaluoto et al., 2008).

WBC is about as effective as applying an ice pack or ice water immersion. It makes sense, as cold temperatures have analgesic effects and help to reduce inflammation. While this is great for acute pain reduction, it does nothing for the long term. It is also priced at $75 a session when you can fill a bag of ice with a cloth between it for $0 and apply for the same effect.

IMPROVED RECOVERY TIME/ ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

  • Measurements were taken before, immediately after WBC and 15 min later..
  • Performed eccentric exercise protocol to induce exercise induced muscle damage (EIMD).
  • Did not improve maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC)
  • Did not improve peak power output (PPO)
  • Did not alleviate muscle soreness or muscle force recovery (Costello and colleagues, 2012).

Overall research suggests that WBC has no effect on recovery time, reducing muscle soreness, or helping with muscle force recovery(Costello et al. (2012); Fonda et al. (2013)). Next…

DEPRESSION

  • Rymaszewska and colleagues (2003) conducted a poor study that consisted of only 23 depressed subjects and no control group and came to the conclusion that whole-body cryotherapy is effective in treating depression. However, due to the lack of proper methodology, no control group, and no consistency with previous research, I would deem this inefficient evidence to support this conclusion.
  • Rymaszewska followed up with another study in 2008 and yet again found it beneficial to use cryotherapy for depression. This time they used a control group, however they failed to randomize their control vs. experimental group and the control group had significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression to begin, with little room to change. I expect that their lack of randomization and the significantly lower initial levels of depression and anxiety in the control group resulted in a floor effect. Also, there aren’t any other researchers testing this topic out.

I wouldn’t buy into this as treatment for depression.

HEADACHES

  • No significant differences between using acetaminophen and cryotherapy in the form of placing a cold gel band over the forehead for reducing pain in headaches (Drew et al., 2005).
  • Nothing on WBC

Basically, there was zero evidence supporting the efficacy of WBC on headaches and there was one single study on local cryotherapy by placing an ice pack over the forehead. Seeing as how there was no evidence on WBC, I would save your $75 for your acetaminophen and gel cold pack stash.

CONCLUSION

Research suggests that whole-body cryotherapy is either not beneficial at all, or not more beneficial than other types of treatment. It is also extremely expensive…($75 a pop). It amazes me that people are allowed to offer a service for health improvement that has no evidence backing it up. It also amazes me that news channels support this type of stuff and that tons of people are doing it just because they hear it on the news or see that Lindsay Lohan is doing it. I feel sorry for the people dumping their money into something so pricey without knowing that they are probably just experiencing a placebo effect. My suggestion is to stay away from cryotherapy until there is proper evidence to support it… if there ever will be. I would guess that you will get the same effect as jumping into a freezing pool or going streaking in the snow. No doubt that will increase your norepinephrine (adrenaline).

Feel free to comment/ ask questions.

Until next time!

#SOE


REFERENCES

Costello, J. T., Algar, L. A., & Donnelly, A. E. (2012). Effects of whole‐body cryotherapy (−110 °C) on proprioception and indices of muscle damage. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 22(2), 190-198

Demoulin, C., & Vanderthommen, M. (2012). Cryotherapy in rheumatic diseases. Joint Bone Spine, 79(2), 117-118.

Drew, B. I., King, M. L., & Callahan, L. (2005). Cryotherapy for treatment of ECT-induced headache. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 43(4), 32.

Fonda, B., & Sarabon, N. (2013). Effects of whole‐body cryotherapy on recovery after hamstring damaging exercise: A crossover study. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 23(5), e270-e278.

Leppäluoto, J., Westerlund, T., Huttunen, P., Oksa, J., Smolander, J., Dugué, B., & Mikkelsson, M. (2008). Effects of long-term whole-body cold exposures on plasma concentrations of ACTH, beta-endorphin, cortisol, catecholamines and cytokines in healthy females. Scandinavian Journal of Clinical & Laboratory Investigation, 68(2), 145-153.

Rymaszewska, J., A, T , Z, Z Zagrobelny., A, Kiejna., & T, H. (2003). Influence of whole body cryotherapy on depressive symptoms – preliminary report. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 15(3), 122-128.

Rymaszewska, J., Ramsey, D., & Chładzińska-Kiejna, S. (2008). Whole-body cryotherapy as adjunct treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders. Archivum Immunologiae Et Therapiae Experimentalis, 56(1), 63-68.

2 Comments

  1. Have you heard of coolsculpting? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the matter and what researchers have found. To date most information on line appears to come from partial parties or seemingly untrustworthy opinion based articles.

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