How Does Cryotherapy Work? What does cryotherapy do? Everything you need to know

Man walking out of cryotherapy machine

Have you ever tried cryotherapy before? It’s the latest way that athletes are using to improve their recovery and performance. 

For those of you that don’t know exactly know what cryotherapy is, we made this article for you. Telling you how cryotherapy works and answering common questions that people hae about this form of therapy.

How does cryotherapy work? Cryotherapy is a form of cold therapy that people use to alleviate pain and alleviation in their bodies. It works by either placing someone either in a chamber or room with extremely low temperatures for short periods.

How Cold is Cryotherapy?

If the word cryo is an indicator, cryotherapy is extremely cold. Temperatures can reach as low as – 200 to – 300 degrees. Far more colder than traditional cold therapies that are done with ice baths or ice packs.

To reach these cold temperatures, cryo centers or hospitals will generally use one of three different methods.

  • Liquid Nitrogen
  • Liquid Nitrogen Oxide
  • Argon Gas 

Types of Cryotherapy

There are two types of cryotherapy that people use to treat ailments. Traditional cold water and whole-body therapy.

Cold Water

Cold water or ice is the original cryotherapy that has been used for thousands of years. Ancient physiologists early on realized that cold water or ice can alleviate pain and treat injuries. This is why you’ve always heard people recommend taking cold baths or ice baths to get rid of inflammation.

Types of cold water cryotherapy that people use include:

  • Ice Baths 
  • Cold Showers
  • Ice Packs

Whole-Body Cryo

Whole-body cryo is the newest form of cryotherapy that many athletes began using. This where you’re put in a type of chamber for a short period of time in extreme cold. Far colder than traditional ice water cryo therapy.

This type of cryotherapy has become incredibly popular and cryocenters are popping up all over the world.

Types of Whole-Body Cryo

As we mentioned in the section above there are different types of whole-body cryotherapy. There are chambers and there are cryo rooms.

Cryo Chambers 

Cryo chambers are the most common type of whole-body cryo therapy. The chamber is a pod that users step into with only their head above the chamber. They are given just enough room not to touch the freezing metal.

Cryo Rooms

Cryo rooms are the latest type of whole-body cryo, where you enter a cryogenic room. The process is the same as the cryo chamber, but your entire body(including your head) is exposed to the cold.

What Does Cryotherapy Treat?

Cryotherapy is used to treat a wide variety of ailments. It can help you with everything from:

  • Reduce Pain 
  • Reduce Inflammation
  • Recover From Training/Exercise
  • Improve Joint Function
  • Rehab Injuries
  • Repairing Scar Tissue
  • Reduce Eczema/Acne
  • Weight Loss  

What Happens During a Cryo Session?

During a cryo session, you are put in a chamber or room, depending on where you go. You will spend between 2-4 minutes in the cryo chamber or room being exposed to below freezing temperatures. This is the standard time, because you risk frost-bite on your body going any longer than four minutes.

When your body is exposed to this immense cold, it puts your body into survival mode. Your blood retreats to your core and head to protect your organs and brain from freezing.

Once the session is done, your blood rushes back to your limbs at a rapid rate. This increase in blood flow helps alleviate pain and inflammation, which is why this therapy has become popular.

The Cryotherapy Process 

The process of a cryotherapy session is quite easy and stress free. Here is how the process of a normal cryo session might go.

Entering the Business

The first step of course is entering the place of business to do your cryo session. Some places accept walk-ins, but at other places you will have to schedule an appointment. If you walk-in and someone with an appointment walks in, you will have to wait.

Fill Out Paperwork

If this is your first time going to this spa or cryo center, you will have to do some paper work. The attendant will talk you through the cryo process and make you sign a waiver.

Put On Your Gloves and Socks

Once your paperwork is done, the attendant will direct you to the changing room. They will direct you to strip down, then put on your gloves, socks, and robe. The robe is required when walking around where other people are present.

Get in the Chamber

When it’s your turn, you will be taken to the cryo chamber or cryo room. The attendant will set the timer and explain what to do when the cold hits your body. 

They will explain that the cold will be intense and you will need to calm your mind and remember to breathe.

What do I do in the Chamber/Room?

If you’re really feeling the effects of the cold when you’re in the chamber/room, the best thing for you to do is move. Keep your body moving by doing a variety of different movements.

You could do things like run in place, bounce, air squats, or even shadow box. Whatever you need to do to get through the 2-4 minutes.

Once your time us up, the attendant will turn of they cold, hand you the robe, and open the chamber. Congrats, you just completed your first cryo session.

Heat Session?

Some spas or cryo centers will try to upsale you buy offering heat therapy after your cryo therapy. Most of the spas have state of the art leg warmers or saunas on hand.

For extra fees, you can sit in the sauna or put on the leg warmers afterwards. This can help blood flow back to your limbs if you wish to also go through this.

The Danger of Cryotherapy

There are two apparent dangers from cryotherapy. Those a risk of frostbite and a slim chance of death. Let us expand on the slim chance of death.

There has only been one confirmed death of someone using a cryo chamber, but it was an accident. A spa worker in Las Vegas dyed of asphyxia from breathing in nitrogen oxide. 

She was also alone in the spa after hours and had no one to help her.

You can die from asphyxia from breathing in cold nitrogen oxide, but that will never happen to you during a session. An intendant stands next to the chamber at all times with a timer and tells you to keep your head out of the chamber.

Frost-bite is also unlikely since you are required to wear thermal socks and gloves during cryo sessions.

How Much is Cryotherapy?

The cost of a cryotherapy session will depend on where you go and if you obtain a membership. Places that offer cryotherapy usually charge between $10-$15 per session for walk-ins.

Most cryo places will offer you session packages and memberships to get you to come back. These packages will usually be put at a discounted rate that’s lower than a walk-in session. 

Ready to do Some Cryo?

Cryotherapy is a stress free process that has the potential to have many positives for your body. If you’re interesting in cryotherapy, do an internet search and see if it’s offered near you. But be aware that you’re definitely going to feel the cold.

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Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years. Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.


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