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Naples Daily News (Florida)
Modern-day cryotherapy may seem like a new concept, but the origins of cold plunges and contrast baths date as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans. Back then, cold plunges were used to stimulate blood circulation and rapidly cool the body, particularly when soldiers where in active training preparations for war. Water temperatures ranged from 4 to 8 degrees. Perhaps we need to credit our ancient ancestors as being the first to develop whole-body cryotherapy.
What exactly is whole-body cryotherapy?
Fast forward several centuries, and modern-day cryotherapy is a procedure that literally means cold-therapy. It requires participants to be minimally dressed (e.g. bathing suit and socks) while being exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes, typically in a chamber-type setting.
According to a report in Medical News Today, cryotherapy may offer the following benefits:
Decreased headache and reduced pain from migraines. Cryotherapy helps treat migraines by cooling and numbing nerves in the neck area and cooling the blood passing through intracranial vessels.
Helps treat nerve disorders by numbing the pain. This has proven helpful when treating athletes with pinched nerves or neuromas, chronic pain or even acute injuries.
Provides pain relief and muscle healing. Cryotherapy can help with muscle pain, as well as some joint and muscle disorders, such as arthritis. It may also promote faster healing of athletic injuries.
Just as doctors have long recommended using ice packs on injured and painful muscles, using cryotherapy may increase blood circulation after the ice pack is removed, promoting faster healing and greater pain relief.
Research has also been conducted on the effects of whole-body cryotherapy and bone health. Initial findings showed whole-body cryotherapy had beneficial effects on bone resorption, suggesting that the increased osteogenic (bone formation) would be beneficial in the prevention of stress fractures and in post- fracture recovery.
Finally, research has determined the heightened effectiveness of whole-body cryotherapy in relationship to improvements in muscular tiredness, pain and well-being following strenuous exercise.
These days, many high-profile professional athletes, NFL teams and European soccer clubs are using cryotherapy chambers on a regular basis to assist in overall performance; recovery, reduced injuries, energy, sleep.
There is anecdotal information that whole-body cryotherapy can reportedly burn between 500 and 800 calories in three minutes, although I have not been able to find a published study to substantiate this claim. If this were true, it would likely be due to heat generation within the body to compensate for external cold. It is well known that shivering increases the body's metabolism and hence caloric expenditure.
Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist from Fort Myers. She is a USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach, has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification and a PhD in results. For more training tips, contact her at www.gearedup.biz.
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