Turning the tap to cold and blasting myself for a few minutes at the end of an otherwise warm and enjoyable shower is a habit I have adopted for some time now. And no, I can’t say I really look forwards to it all that much and yes I know it sounds a bit crazy.
So exactly why do I do this? And why on earth would I then also go visit my friends at cryosauna japan and step into a cryosauna chamber delivering an ambient temperature of -170°C ?
Well, that is the purpose of this blog detailing benefits of cold therapy and more specifically cryotherapy.
Let’s get started.
What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a treatment administered with a Cryosauna. The cryosauna uses gas from nitrogen to rapidly lower the skin’s top layer to 0°C (32°F) while surrounding temperature drops to a range of -140°C (-220°F) to -170°C (-274°F). During two / three minutes of extreme cold, the brain triggers numerous organ regulatory functions that are noted to provide benefits from injury recovery, weight loss, mental boost to anti-aging.
Cold therapy treatments have been around for aeons, but Whole Body Cryotherapy originated in Japan in the late 1970’s by Dr. Yamaguchi who discovered that freezing skin surface provided immediate relief to his patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Yamaguchi and his partner’s ongoing studies concluded that faster short term freezing of the skin’s surface while inside a cryosauna had a raised the effects on the human body by comparison to a gradual cooling provided in other methods (such as a cold shower or ice bath) and thus the modern treatment of the cryotherapy was born.
More recently cryotherapy and cold exposure has become a popularized ‘bio-hacking’ method that has been adopted amongst high profile individuals from athletes.
The Science of Cryotherapy
So, is it really possible all these claims could be true? Well, there are numerous studies which are demonstrating the evidence and as with much emerging ‘natural’ therapies, some of which is still debated. One particularly problematic component of scientifically proving cold therapy is the inability to run the scientific standard ‘placebo controlled double blind study’. This is a condition which a control group believes they are receiving a treatment (but not) is matched with results against a group that do. With Cryotherapy there is no sugar pill to give, either the user steps into a cryosauna chamber and experiences the cold therapy or they do not. It is for this reason the science behind cold therapy has been slow to become widely accepted in the scientific community.
Regardless of this, it has not stopped early adopters of the bio-hacking community to embrace the therapy and the numerous direct experience and anecdotal evidence shared by users is difficult to ignore which is what lead me into my own personal exploration of the therapy that I share here.
The Benefits of Cryotherapy
There are numerous claims to the benefits of cryotherapy from a depression treatment to even life longevity. I haven’t investigated into these areas and encourage you to explore further beyond the list below, which I have limited to the most commonly noted and scientifically sound benefits.
As mentioned already, there have been many studies that demonstrate the benefit of cold therapy including those on arthritis sufferers where the treatment was originally developed. This is achieved primarily due to the anti-inflammatory effects and the trigger of release of endorphins in the patients. Additionally ‘topical’ cryotherapy on patients with wisdom teeth extraction showed significant benefit. This was tested in a group of people with dual extractions and applying treatments to one side.
After high intensity / endurance activity. Studies have shown that speed of muscle recovery from intense workouts is significantly improved by comparison to those of a control group who were not exposed to the therapy. Cryotherapy is a powerful anti-inflammatory, this is due to cold exposure allowing improved blood circulation (vasodilation) through the muscle groups and into otherwise poorly circulated capillary veins.
The timing of cold therapy post exercise to maximize the benefits is still debated however, generally speaking the advice is in the window of 1 hour after the exercise (allowing time for muscle repair/rebuild to take place via healthy muscle inflammation) but then within the following 48 hours of the exercise.
By the release of Norepinephrine and adrenaline into the bloodstream. These wonderful and natural body chemicals are commonly experience during a ‘fight or flight’ situation and is aimed at improving your ability to cope with the stress demands of the situation. Cryotherapy is able to artificially stimulate this biochemical response without any real threat of harm and allow us to gain a mental alertness and clarity benefits. The synthetic stresses from our desk jobs that seldom trigger such a biochemical reaction. I personally believe it’s good to experience a shock to the system once in a while.
Via non-shivering thermogenesis. To vastly oversimplify, this is a process whereby the body’s response to cold exposure speeds up the metabolism in order to regain body temperature and in doing so burns energy from brown adipose tissue (‘brown fat’ stored on the body that is readily consumed for fuel).
Achieved through the speed up of metabolism, improved blood circulation and stimulation of an increase in collagen production in the skin.
If you would like to try cryotherapy for yourself and based in Tokyo, please visit my friends at Cryosauna Japan (booking is essential!) to arrange a session.
They are located at:
La Muse Juban BLDG.
4F, 1-6-5 Azabu Juban
If you have the space for it, they can even arrange to install a cryosauna in your own home!