Cryotherapy is a treatment for aches and pains that have become quite popular, and not just for athletes who want to treat sore muscles.
If you’re battling with neck and back pain, you might wonder if it could help you. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
How does cryotherapy work?
It requires you to plunge your entire body in a freezing chamber for three to five minutes and letting the icy temperatures work on sore muscles and reduce inflammation in the body.
That said, there are some important things to know about cryotherapy before you book a session. Let’s take a look at cryotherapy in more detail and if it can help your back and neck pain.
- 1 What’s The Science Behind Cryotherapy?
- 2 Cryotherapy: What Does The Research Say?
- 3 But Does Cryotherapy Really Work To Reduce Pain?
- 4 What Else Cryotherapy Can Do For You
- 5 When To Avoid Cryotherapy
- 6 Cryotherapy Side Effects
- 7 Whole Body Cryotherapy Vs. Localized Cryotherapy
- 8 Cryotherapy Vs. Cold Water Treatments
- 9 Related Questions
- 10 Conclusion
What’s The Science Behind Cryotherapy?
During cryotherapy, the skin is exposed to extremely low temperatures so it quickly hits below-freezing levels.
This activates the body’s cold sensors. To protect the body against the cold, the brain sends signals to encourage greater heat in the body.
It does this by tightening blood vessels that bring blood to tissues and muscles so that it can direct blood flow to the body’s vital organs, and this vasoconstriction also increases blood pressure.
Interestingly, as reported by Prime, the body’s blood composition is altered during cryotherapy.
The heart pumps blood that’s richer in white blood cells so that the body will be able to survive under the cold, which the brain sees as a threat.
When under threat, the body begins processes that can actually prove beneficial for treating pain.
Cryotherapy: What Does The Research Say?
The idea of sitting in freezing cold temperatures to heal the body isn’t such a difficult thing to imagine if you consider how ice packs are often used to treat specific muscles that are sore or strained.
In fact, the application of ice on the body does have many benefits. These include boosting blood circulation, which helps muscles to heal. This also offers pain relief.
But Does Cryotherapy Really Work To Reduce Pain?
Indeed, various research backs up the benefits associated with cryotherapy.
A study that was published in the German journal Die Rehabilitation found that cryotherapy even helps to reduce the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
That’s not all. Another study, this time published in the Human Kinetics journal, found that cryotherapy has been found to reduce muscle pain and increase one’s ability to heal.
The Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine has also reported on how whole-body cryotherapy can help to heal sore muscles.
They found that it may decrease soreness in the short-term as well as boost the perception of recovery after certain activities.
That said, it can’t lead to enhanced performance or function.
What Else Cryotherapy Can Do For You
Now that you know not to expect miracles from cryotherapy, it’s worth looking at how it can decrease soreness, like if you have neck or back pain.
In fact, is it suitable for such types of pain?
Cryotherapy For Back Pain
It’s been said that freezing cold temperatures can actually help to treat sore muscles. Although many athletes are devoted to cryotherapy sessions, the results of it do vary from one person to the next.
If you’re battling with muscle spasms, cryotherapy can help because applying cold to muscles can decrease the muscle spindles’ sensitivity, therefore decreasing pain and muscle spasms.
Cryotherapy For Neck Pain
Research shows promise when it comes to using cryotherapy for neck pain.
In one report that was published in the Cochrane Library, it was stated that cryotherapy can provide physiological and therapeutic benefits that lead to better recovery.
However, in order for this to take place, the skin temperature should drop by a minimum of 15 degrees Celsius.
In addition, it’s important to guard against potential adverse effects such as nerve injury or frostbite.
The way in which cryotherapy is said to work for pain is by reducing the tissue temperature where it is applied, which decreases the tissue metabolic rate and enables vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels, as we touched on earlier.
This can control conditions such as inflammation and edema, which can reduce the severity of spasms and pain in the neck area.
However, there’s another way in which cryotherapy works and that’s by creating an analgesic effect.
An analgesic is a medication that relieves pain, and in this way, cryotherapy can offer the same pain-relieving benefits to you!
When To Avoid Cryotherapy
Although it sounds promising for treating various pain, cryotherapy isn’t safe for everyone.
If you have a medical condition such as any of the following, cryotherapy should be avoided because it can be dangerous.
- Respiratory conditions
- History of heart attacks
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Deep vein thrombosis or other circulatory disorders
- History of seizures
- Bleeding disorders
- History of stroke or cerebral hemorrhage
- Kidney disease
- Pacemakers or metal implants
Cryotherapy Side Effects
In addition, cryotherapy can have some side effects for the general population that are worth knowing about.
Common side effects include tingling, redness of the skin, and numbness. However, these don’t usually last long and will resolve themselves within 24 hours.
It’s important to be safe when entering cryotherapy chambers to reduce your risk of side effects and possible dangers.
Never stay in the chamber for longer than four minutes.
In fact, two to three minutes in the chamber that’s set to -166 degrees Fahrenheit and -211 degrees Fahrenheit is commonplace.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that even if you’re not using a cryotherapy chamber but applying ice to your skin, such as by using an ice pack, you should avoid doing it for longer than 20 minutes, and never apply ice directly to your skin!
Whole Body Cryotherapy Vs. Localized Cryotherapy
Entering a whole-body cryotherapy chamber might not always be necessary, thanks to localized cryotherapy treatments that are available.
These are great because they enable you to target specific areas of the body where you have pain and give certain spots in the body more attention than simply having your entire body covered in cold temperatures.
Because of this, localized cryotherapy can be beneficial for areas of the body that are experiencing pain, such as the neck and back.
If an area such as these is experiencing acute pain, then it becomes even more beneficial to focus on it.
In local cryotherapy, certain areas of your body will be exposed to temperatures between -240 and -256 degrees Fahrenheit for about five minutes.
Cryotherapy Vs. Cold Water Treatments
If you’re interested in cryotherapy but aren’t sure if you want to be exposed to such low temperatures, don’t worry.
Research has found that there’s an alternative that might be even more successful at treating muscle pains.
In a 2014 study that was published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that ice packs can actually decrease intramuscular temperature much more than whole-body cryotherapy: just 10 minutes of using an ice pack on the skin cooled the skin by between 32 and 47 degrees F, while three minutes in a whole-body cryotherapy chamber only cooled the skin by six to 35 degrees F.
How often can you get cryotherapy?
It depends on your situation. Some people already reap benefits from one cryotherapy session, although it is thought to be more effective when it’s used on a regular basis.
When did cryotherapy originate?
Cryotherapy was developed in Japan in the 1970s to treat rheumatism with the use of nitrogen.
It was found that quick cooling of the body was more effective at treating pain than gradual cooling. This led to whole body cryotherapy.
If you’re dealing with back and neck pain, you might consider cryotherapy.
As explained in this article, there are two types – whole-body cryotherapy and localized cryotherapy – that can help to ease sore, inflamed muscles, and might even work as well as a regular painkiller.
By reading our guide to cryotherapy, you’ll learn more about it and see if it’s a treatment that’s viable for your condition so that you can freeze your pain.
In addition, you’ll be aware of when cryotherapy is not recommended for your specific needs as it can be too risky.
The good news is that other types of cold treatment can work, such as the use of ice packs applied to the painful area, with the same positive results.Last updated on: