Cryotherapy is a relatively new therapy trend in the sports world, but is it safe?
They say that in life, there are no short cuts. That may be true, but it doesn’t stop humans from constantly trying to come up with ways to speed things up, especially in the field of sports recovery.
Cryotherapy is a pretty new therapy in the sports world. It takes the idea of ice baths for recovery, and adds science to the equation.
Basically, after a strenuous workout or match, an athlete would strip down to shorts or a bathing suit, gloves, a face mask, a warm headband and dry socks. They would then enter an acclimatization chamber set to about negative 76 degrees, then the actual cryotherapy chamber, which is set to negative 166 degrees, which is colder than any natural temperature recorded on Earth.
Athletes would then spend no more than three minutes in the chamber, stomping their feet and rotating arms to keep the blood circulating.
The idea is that the cold temperatures would help with muscle recovery, and many athletes who have tried it have said that they experience less soreness a few days after a strenuous workout, than those who don’t use the therapy.
The science behind it is a little less sound, however. Studies have not shown that cryotherapy actually aids in the healing process, when it comes to damaged muscle.
What is promising however, is that it does reduce inflammation (as you would expect a cold treatment to do). So athletes who experience less soreness and pain as a result, are probably feeling the benefits of less inflammation, while the process of healing muscles takes about the same time.
So is cryotherapy safe? As long as you are completely dry (including your socks), it is safe. Inflammation is a major cause of a lot of discomfort, so if cryotherapy makes your recovery a little less painful, then feel free to freeze yourself!
What it won’t do is make your body actually heal faster. So just make sure you are still taking the appropriate time to rest and recover, because even though your body may feel healed, you still risk injury if you jump back into difficult workouts or sports without exercising caution.