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Cryotherapy: Healing sports injuries with ice

Linda Melone, CSCS, is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and certified personal trainer based in Orange County, CA. Visit her website at www.LindaMelone.com.

Ice, ice baby

You whirl it into smoothies and use it to cool down drinks on a hot summer day, but did you know ice can also boost metabolism, relieve pain and tighten your skin? If you've ever applied an ice pack to a sprained ankle (or to your head after one too many margaritas) and felt the relief, imagine cooling down your entire body the same way. Only instead of an ice pack, you're put into a chamber with nitrogen, which brings temps down to a chilly minus 270 degrees Fahrenheit.
cryotherapy machine

Brrrrr with health benefits

It may sound as if you'd freeze instantly, but Dr. Alan Christianson, NMD, owner of Integrative Health and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease says "many describe the sensation of whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) to standing in front of an open freezer door." So if you've ever stood in front of the freezer spooning Ben & Jerry's right out of the container after a bad date, you know the feeling.

Christianson says the benefits of cryotherapy include:

  • Pain relief from tendinitis, fibromyalgia, arthritis and migraines
  • Improved athletic performance by enhancing muscle endurance, increasing speed and strength, and speeding recovery
  • Increased metabolism and more calories burned
  • Increased energy
  • Improved skin, reduced cellulite and more elastic skin, treatment for dermatitis and psoriasis and repaired tissue
  • Enhanced endorphins, which improve depth of sleep, and relieve stress and depression

woman in cryotherapy machineHow cryotherapy works

Inside the Cryosauna chamber, you are gently sprayed with a mist of nitrogen. (Nitrogen is safe and non-toxic and makes up 80 percent of our natural atmosphere.) This dry mist gently chills the skin while leaving your core warm, thus stimulating your body’s natural healing process, says Christianson. "The temperature level in whole body cryotherapy is brisk but very tolerable," he adds.

Many people feel significant benefits after just one treatment. "For continued benefits, we recommend one treatment per week for one month, with continued treatments once or twice per month. For relief of significant pain or skin disease, we recommend up to 10 treatments in close succession (e.g. , three times per week) for maximum results. For continued benefits, we recommend treatments one to four times per month."

Cryotherapy isn't for everyone

WBC is not recommend for pregnant women or those with uncontrolled blood pressure, heart disease, seizures, Raynaud’s syndrome or acute infection, says Christianson. "Patients within the ages of 12 to 18 years old can be treated with parental consent."

Feel like chillin'? WBC is quickly becoming available in most metropolitan areas, says Christianson. For a list of current WBC locations in the United States, go to lifeofmillennium.com/mii-usa.php

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