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What is cold therapy and what are its benefits and side effects?

Study guide

Cold therapy or cryotherapy is a technique in which the body is exposed to a severe cold for a few minutes. Some claim that severe colds can improve mental and physical health and even prolong life. But research into cryotherapy has just begun. Therefore, physicians are not aware of all the potential benefits and risks of this procedure. In the following, we will explain what cold therapy is and what its types are. We also list the benefits, side effects, and risks, and outline the things you need to know before cryotherapy.

Types of cold therapy

Cold therapy can be used for the whole body or only part of it. Topical cryotherapy is performed in a variety of ways, such as using an ice pack, ice massage, cooling spray, ice bath, and sometimes with a cryotherapy probe applied to the target tissue. Some people only use facial cold therapy and some for specific parts of the body such as painful joints.

Cold therapy of the whole body is the most popular type of cold therapy. In this method, the person sits in the cold room for 3 to 5 minutes. Proponents of this method believe that immersing the body in very cold weather for a few minutes has health benefits. In cryotherapy, the whole body of the person is placed in a room enclosed or in a small chamber that surrounds the body but is open from above and above the head. The temperature of the chamber drops between 200 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit (93 to 149 degrees Celsius) and the person is exposed to extremely cold air for two to four minutes.

A cryotherapy session is also helpful, but if used regularly, it will be most effective. Some athletes use cold therapy twice a day, some 10 days in a row and then once a month.

Cold therapy is a non-medical treatment in a similar tank or place. Of course, doctors also use cold therapy. Examples include cryotherapy for warts or cancer cells.

Although cold therapy is unpleasant at first, it usually gets better with each session because the body adapts to the lower temperature.

Benefits of cold therapy

1. Pain relief and muscle healing

Cold therapy can help relieve muscle pain as well as some joint and muscle problems such as osteoarthritis. Cold therapy also heals sports injuries faster.

Doctors have long recommended the use of ice packs on damaged and painful muscles. Doing so can increase blood circulation after removing the ice pack and heal the injury and relieve pain. Many athletes have been using cold therapy for years to treat injuries. Cold therapy can numb the stimulated nerve and relieve pain. Doctors place a small probe on the tissue near the affected area to treat it. This procedure can help treat pinched nerves or nerve neuromas or tumors, chronic pain, or even acute injuries.

A 2000 study found that cryotherapy provides temporary relief from rheumatoid arthritis pain. This study showed that ice therapy with ice packs can reduce the destructive effects of strenuous exercise. People who used cold therapy also reported less pain.

Another study in 2017 confirmed the benefits of cryotherapy to relieve muscle pain and speed recovery. However, this study showed that immersion in cold water is more effective than cold therapy of the whole body.

Of course, not all studies confirm the role of cold therapy in muscle healing. A 2015 study by the Cochrane Medical Research Foundation, which looked at four studies on the effect of cold therapy on relieving muscle pain, found no significant benefit.

۲. Weight Loss

Cold therapy alone does not cause weight loss, but it can help the weight loss process. In theory, the cold forces the body to work harder to stay warm.

Some cold therapy providers claim that a few minutes of cold can boost your metabolism for the rest of the day. They claim that the person no longer feels cold because his metabolism has been regulated and increased in response to cold temperatures.

According to a small study in 2016, after 10 minutes of cold treatment, no changes in body composition were observed.

Cold therapy helps relieve muscle pain, so it can make it easier to return to a fitness program after an injury. This potential benefit of cold therapy for weight loss only applies to people who are unable to exercise due to pain.

3. Reduce osteoarthritis pain

Topical cold therapy alone is not effective in treating serious problems; In whole-body cryotherapy studies, people with osteoarthritis significantly reduced pain. Cold therapy also made physiotherapy and occupational therapy more aggressive, and ultimately made rehabilitation programs more effective.

4. Reduce inflammation

Inflammation is one of the ways the immune system fights infection, but sometimes the immune system overreacts and causes chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation also causes various problems and diseases, such as:

  • Cancer;
  • Diabetes;
  • Depression;
  • Dementia;
  • Arthritis.

Therefore, reducing inflammation can improve the overall health of the body and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Some studies show that cold therapy can reduce inflammation. Of course, most research has been done on mice. Therefore, more research needs to be done on humans to confirm the data.

5. Prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s

Although more research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this method, it can theoretically be said that cryotherapy for the whole body can help prevent Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, because the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cold therapy can counteract the oxidative and inflammatory stress responses that Occur in Alzheimer’s, be effective.

According to a 2012 study, the use of cold may reduce inflammation and oxidative stress associated with these problems:

  • Dementia;
  • Mild cognitive impairment;
  • Other forms of age-related cognitive decline.

6. Cancer prevention and treatment

Cold surgery or cryosurgery is a method of medical cold therapy
Cold surgery or cryosurgery of the skin

Cold therapy reduces inflammation throughout the body, so it can reduce the risk of cancer.

Medical cold therapy is one of the proven treatments for certain types of cancer. Your doctor can use cryotherapy to freeze cancer cells in your skin or cervix, and sometimes to kill other cancers.

Doctors sometimes use topical and targeted cryotherapy, called cryosurgery, to treat cancer. This is done by freezing the cancer cells and surrounding them with ice crystals. This method is used to treat some low-risk tumors in certain types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.

7. Reduce anxiety and depression

Cold therapy reduces inflammation, so it can also treat the mental health problems associated with inflammation. Some early research on cold therapy and mental health also supports this claim.

A small study in 2008 found that cold therapy reduced symptoms by at least 50 percent in one-third of people with depression or anxiety. This reduction in symptoms was much greater than in those who did not receive cold therapy.

In cold therapy of the whole body, very cold temperatures can cause physiological hormonal responses. These hormonal responses include the secretion of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and endorphins, and can have a positive effect on people with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

8. Improve and treat skin problems such as eczema

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin that causes parts of the skin to become dry and itchy. In a 2008 study of people with eczema, participants were asked to discontinue their anti-eczema medications and use cold therapy. Many have seen their symptoms improve, although some have complained of frostbite on small areas of skin.

Cold therapy can increase the level of antioxidants in the blood and reduce inflammation at the same time, so it makes sense that topical and whole-body therapies can help treat atopic dermatitis.

Another study (on mice) showed the effect of cold therapy on acne treatment. In this study, cryotherapy was used to contract the sebaceous glands.

9. Treatment of migraine headaches

Reduce migraine headaches with cold therapy

Cold therapy can help treat migraines by cooling and numbing the nerves in the neck. In one study, the use of a wrap around the neck that placed two bags of frozen ice on the carotid arteries of the neck significantly reduced the volunteers’ migraine pain.

The effectiveness of this method is thought to be due to the cooling of blood that passes through the intracranial vessels. Carotid arteries are two large vessels on either side of the neck that branch from a vessel called the common carotid artery. These two vessels are close to the surface of the skin and therefore accessible.

Risks and side effects of cryotherapy

The most common side effects of all types of cold therapy are:

  • numb;
  • Burning or tingling;
  • Irritation and redness of the skin.

Of course, these side effects are mostly temporary. See your doctor if these symptoms do not go away within 24 hours.

You should never use cold therapy more than the recommended time. The recommended time for whole body cold treatment is 4 minutes. Doing a cold treatment for more than a few minutes can be fatal. The person should never sleep during a cold treatment and should pay attention to the time of each session to make sure that it is not longer than the recommended time.

If you use an ice pack or ice bath at home, never put ice on the area for more than 20 minutes. Wrap ice packs in a towel to avoid damaging your skin.

Cold therapy is generally safe, but it is best to talk to your doctor before doing it.

For whom cold therapy is not recommended

People with diabetes or diseases that affect the nerves should not use cold therapy, as they may not be able to fully feel the effects of cold therapy, and this can cause further nerve damage.

Cold therapy is prohibited for these people:

  • pregnant women;
  • children;
  • People with very high blood pressure;
  • People with heart disease.

Tips and tips for cold therapy

If you have a disease that you want to treat with a cold, be sure to talk about it with the person who is doing the cold treatment for you. It is always best to consult a doctor before using any treatment.

If you are using whole body cold therapy:

  • Wear dry, loose-fitting clothing;
  • Wear socks and gloves to protect against frostbite;
  • If possible, move around during treatment to maintain blood flow.

If you need cold surgery, your doctor will talk to you about the necessary preparations beforehand. These preparations can include abstaining from eating and drinking for 12 hours before surgery.

Concluding remarks

There is ample evidence that cryotherapy can help alleviate a wide range of problems, including slowing or reversing skin aging, helping to reduce body fat, and prevent chronic diseases. Some studies also support the benefits of cryotherapy, but until further research confirms these claims, it is not possible to determine exactly how effective cryotherapy can be.

Warning! This article is for educational purposes only and you should consult your doctor or specialist to use it. more information





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