There is a lot being said these days about the use of cryotherapy chambers as a means to help accelerate the body’s natural healing process. Whole body cryotherapy chambers are small rooms that are brought to sub-zero temperatures (-200 to -300ºF) with the aim of reducing the body temperature to achieve certain benefits. The positive effects of cryotherapy are well documented:
- Reducing pain without medication
- Reducing swelling
- Decreasing muscle spasms
- Relieving muscle soreness
- Preventing edema
- Accelerating recovery time after an injury
However, the potential adverse effects of whole body cryotherapy chambers include:
- Cold burns
- Frostbite on the face and extremities
- Elevated heart rate
- Elevated breathing rate
- Loss of coordination
These types of adverse effects often leave athletes asking, is cryotherapy safe? In many cases, individuals report no adverse effects but, when these incidents do occur, they can be quite unpleasant and potentially have long-term health consequences.
Safer Alternatives to Whole Body Cryotherapy
Athletes have been using ice baths for post-workout and injury recovery for decades. Assuming the amount of time in the bath is limited, ice baths are beneficial for the areas being submerged. However, they are not the most comfortable alternative because they require being cold and wet for a period of time. They are also not practical for localized treatment, particularly of upper limbs, because it is difficult to submerge isolated areas.
Ice packs are also common treatments among athletes, especially immediately after a soft tissue injury. The risks of ice packs are minimal, although skin burns are possible if the cold source comes into direct contact with the skin. Ice packs can also be inconvenient to use as the ice melts and becomes wet. The effectiveness of an ice pack decreases as it warms up and, because the cold is only entering from a single point, it is not as beneficial as immersion in an ice bath. Anybody who has held an ice pack on an injury also knows how inconvenient it can be to stay in the same position for a long period of time.
Cold therapy machines
Some cold therapy machines, such as the Game Ready System, use a combination of body-conforming wraps and an ice reservoir. Water is pumped through the wrap and circulated through the system reservoir to keep it at a constant, therapeutic, and safe temperature. The cold source never comes into contact with skin, so there is minimal risk of a cold burn. Cold therapy machines are also able to comfortably deliver localized treatment with wraps that conform to various parts of the body. The user stays dry and the wrap allows the patient to be hands-free throughout the entire treatment. The wraps also provide more thorough coverage than an ice pack, so therapeutic cold can penetrate from every angle, much like an ice bath but without the inconvenience.
Is cryotherapy safe? Depending on the method you choose, it can provide many health benefits with little or no risk. If you want to learn more about cold therapy machines and how they can help you safely and quickly recover from an injury, contact Game Ready today.