Cryotherapy — the application of extreme cold to treat pain, soreness, and swelling — has been used in a variety of ways for decades. If you’ve ever applied an ice pack to a swollen ankle, you’ve already “done” cryotherapy.
Most serious athletes already know about the benefits of cold water immersion baths (more commonly referred to as ice baths), but few look forward to sitting in ice-cold water for several minutes. If you like the benefits of cryotherapy from ice baths but hate sitting in the cold water, then whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) is your go-to alternative.
The benefits of whole-body cryotherapy extend far beyond that of athletic performance, but in sports medicine, WBC is often used as a way to treat muscle injury and accelerate recovery. It assists your muscles as they bounce back from the symptoms of overuse between training sessions, exercise and competition.
When you step into the cryo chamber and cold air fills the space around you, your core body temperature lowers, creating a shock to many of your body’s systems which kickstarts natural responses that help your muscles, immune system and your overall athletic performance.
4 Benefits of Cryotherapy for Athletes
Ice packs, ice baths and WBC work because when extreme cold is applied to your body, blood vessels constrict, reducing the blood flow to the area and reducing inflammation. Unlike ice packs that are only for small, localized areas and ice baths that are wildly uncomfortable, cryotherapy covers the entire body up to your neck and is just cold air, not unpleasant icy water. Cryotherapy sessions can typically achieve the same results in a fraction of the time that an ice bath requires.
For athletes, reducing inflammation is key in getting muscles back to playing condition after intense workouts or games. A study from Szczecin University in Poland found that after consecutive sessions of WBC, participants experienced an increase in interleukin-6 – a protein that is released during intense bouts of exercise acts as an anti-inflammatory, helping to regenerate tissue.
Another study says WBC has been shown to not only reduce inflammation but to also improve antioxidant balance (substances that help prevent your cells from damage), and increase beta-endorphins (a hormone that regulates the perception of pain in your brain’s neurons). This means that soreness and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be treated and often outright prevented by WBC. Feeling sore two days later? Not anymore.
Faster recovery from exercise and improved performance
A study performed on professional tennis players found that the players who participated in cryotherapy five days in a row showed greater stroke effectiveness during tennis drills and faster recovery. The researchers concluded that “applying whole-body cryostimulation in conjunction with moderate-intensity training was more effective for the recovery process than the training itself.”
Much of this can be attributed to the anti-inflammatory effects of WBC. The longer inflammation lasts, the longer it will take to recover and the longer it will take to return to pre-exertion and competition-ready physicality. WBC can speed up that recovery time and get you back on the field and on the court faster than your competition.
Increased anaerobic capacity & reduced soreness
When you exercise at a lower intensity, your body is still able to use the energy it gets from oxygen, but once you bump your intensity —like when doing sprints or burpees — your body is unable to keep up with oxygen intake/expenditure and needs to pull it from somewhere else.
At this point, you start using your anaerobic energy system. This is energy that comes from other sources in your body like lactic acid. When you’re exercising or performing in your anaerobic zone, you’re able to power through those sprints and your muscles really start to build up that lean muscle mass. But unfortunately, you can only stay in your anaerobic zone for short periods of time before you use up all your reserved energy — you’ve hit the wall.
After 10 sessions of WBC, a study found that “the benefits of whole body cryostimulation were visible not only in significant changes of peak power but also in average power, total external work, and in the time to reach P max” (or maximum anaerobic power).
Increasing your anaerobic capacity means increasing your ability to stay in the anaerobic zone and reap all the benefits it has to offer for lean muscle mass growth and high-intensity, max-performance outcomes.
Heat Up Your Game with Cryotherapy. Book Your Cryotherapy Consultation At Courted Today
When it comes to increasing athletic performance, the true benefits of whole-body cryotherapy are undeniable. Stop by Courted at The St. James, give us a call at (703) 239-6910 or visit us online to book your introductory cryotherapy consultation today and add WBC to your training routine.