Cryotherapy – Why the best athletes in the world are hooked

What is it?

Exposure to extreme cold(freezing or near freezing temperatures) for short durations of time. Supposedly improves mental and physical health. Fairly new, potential benefits have not yet been proven. Although this therapy is lauded for pain management.

LeBron James is a firm believer of cryotherapy

Who is taking the plunge?

Believers include a majority of tennis superstars such as Nadal, Djokovic, Wawrinka and more. Across the world, basketball superstars like the late Kobe, LeBron, Stephen Curry and the like preach wonders about cryotherapy and what it does for their seasonal durability and career longevity.

Supposed benefits

  • Pain relief and muscle healing – RICE has long been used in organised sports for injured and painful muscles. Study has shown cryotherapy to provide temp relief for rheumatoid arthritis. LeBron James claims that it deadens his nerves, allowing him to play without pain though this is not proven.
  • Weight loss- theory of increasing metabolism by the body fighting to stay warm, therefore enhancing any weight loss component but not this theory is not factually backed.
  • Reduce inflammation- inflammation is the sign of the body fighting infection, in treating this symptom on could potentially alleviate mental health conditions related to prolonged inflammation such as dementia, anxiety and depression
  • Treating cancer- medical cryotherapy is well established and documented in treating certain cancers such as prostate, cervical or skin.

What to expect

Most popular form of cryotherapy involves sitting in a booth, exposing the whole body from the neck down. Professional institutions have a specific chamber one can walk in to, similar to sauna. Some users report a sense of tingling or numbness on the skin afterwards.

Stan Wawrinka stepping out of the Cryotherapy facilities near Roland Garros courts in France

 

Caution

Pregnant women, high blood pressure, people with heart conditions or those that do not adapt to cold well. Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures may cause medical complications including fatality.

Why are athletes hooked?

Less hassle than traditional ice water submersion, with similar results. Although the scientific evidence of cryotherapy is still up in the air, the mental edge of having that placebo has very real effects on performance and mental health of athletes. 

Takeaway

If you’re rehabilitating from injury or experience aches and pains from being in brace, then cryotherapy might be a handy pain management tool. Seasoned athletes also undergo cryotherapy to enhance their performance. However, the high price point may be a deterrent. Alternatively, cheap home-made ice packs are easily made. We recommend using frozen peas instead of ice. No water mess to clean up after and reusable but please don’t consume them after.