Modern Whole Body Cryotherapy, (WBC), using the “CryoCabin” is rooted in the practice of Dr. Yamaguchi of Japan who, in 1978, started using freezing treatments of short duration on his rheumatoid arthritis patients’ skin surface for pain management purposes. With these cryo-procedures, Dr. Yamaguchi found he could significantly reduce the soreness and pain his patients usually felt during manipulation of their joints, because the rapid decrease of temperature of the outer layer of skin led to the immediate release of endorphins and therefore less sensitivity to pain.
In the 1980s, while continuing his research, now on the effects of Whole Body Cryotherapy, Dr.Yamaguchi and his associates came to this conclusion: that rapid short-term freezing of the skin’s surface to a temperature of -1°C while inside the CryoCabin has a more beneficial effect on the human body than its gradual cooling while immersed in an ice bath, where the lowest temperature possible is 5°C.
When inside the CryoCabin, where ambient temperature is usually around -150°C, the human body is rapidly exposed to extremely low temperatures and the skin’s surface is quickly cooled to approximately -1°C for a short period of time (2.5 minutes). When the skin surface temperature reaches freezing for even a few moments, cold sensors in the skin send a very strong signal to the brain that the body might be in danger. In an innate response to protect the body from the critically low temperatures, the brain gives orders to all peripheral parts of the body to constrict the muscles and tissues in order to send blood to the core of the body.
Why does this happen? Because the temperature in the body’s core must be constant and equal to 37°C. So upon receipt of signals from the skin’s cold sensors of the freezing temperatures in the CryoCabin, the brain center has a clear warning that maintaining the necessary core body temperature will be impossible if blood circulation in the outer layers of the skin is allowed to continue. Therefore, blood is sent into the body’s core to begin circulating in an “internal cycle” to protect the vital organs. One immediate effect is that arterial blood pressure increases by about 10 points. For example, if the systolic pressure (upper number) was 130 points (or millimeter of mercury) before the treatment, it may reach 135-140 afterwards for a short time.
But much more is happening as the blood circulates in the “internal cycle.” It is also being enriched with oxygen and all the necessary enzymes and nutrients. Several successive sessions may even lead to an increase in hemoglobin count. The blood becomes enriched in accordance with the best capabilities, as all resources and reserves are activated to ensure the functions of life while the body does its best to survive under the perceived critical conditions.
After 2.5 minutes of WBC, when clients step out of the CryoCabin into the warmer air, signals to the brain indicate this new temperature change, and all peripheral tissues then expand, including blood vessels, muscles and skin tissues – as opposed to the constriction that occurred in the beginning of the treatment when the skin surface temperature was rapidly cooled to -1°C.
What is happening at this point? Under the temporary higher blood pressure caused by WBC, blood is now released from the “internal cycle” and flows back out to the peripheral tissues, filling all the remote corners of the body from which it was withheld during the low temperatures. When this enriched blood reaches peripheral tissues, they are enhanced in the same beneficial way as the internal organs were during the treatment. In fact, this beneficial process continues in the body for 6 to 8 hours after the treatment.
While these processes are initiated by brief exposure of the skin surface to extremely low temperatures, it is important to understand that tissue is not actually frozen during the procedure. Only the illusion of a severe cold impact is created when very cold air temporarily touches the skin where our cold sensors are located. This is one of the essential differences between the Whole Body Cryotherapy and the Ice Bath. This is very important to understand so let’s go in a bit more detail.
The Ice Bath has been regularly used in professional sports today for the rehabilitation of athletes with injuries. But the Ice Bath affects the body in a completely different way than does the CryoCabin, which has now been shown to be much more beneficial and with no negative side effects. So what are the different effects of the Ice Bath and Cryosauna?
First, during the 15-20 minutes of ice bathing, skin tissue freezes and frozen muscles temporarily lose capacity, as muscle tissue needs time to return to normal. So regardless of the time of day when the Ice Bath took place, an athlete cannot get back to practice earlier than the next day. In contrast, CryoCabin does not actually freeze muscle tissue, it only creates a powerful illusion that the body freezes. So a further advantage is that, only 5 or 10 minutes after the Cryo session, an athlete can continue to work out or perform, completely energized and able to make full use of the day.
Next, we need to emphasize that the body’s reaction to cryogenic temperatures (temperatures lower than -110°C) in the CryoCabin is radically different from its reaction to low temperatures while submerged in the Ice Bath. The big difference lies in the fact that, when gradually cooled in an Ice Bath, the body’s response is to try to warm as much blood as possible in its core in order to to send it to the peripheral parts to maintain the warm skin surface. In other words, while in the Ice Bath, the body is struggling with actual, unrelenting, penetrating physical cold (not just signals from skin cold sensors). This process continues, trying to make the body capable of generating sufficient heat to maintain warmth in the peripheral body parts. But when the heat is no longer enough, the muscles start to congeal and freeze, beginning at the skin surface and continuing inward to the body’s center.
But in the CryoCabin, the skin surface reaches temperature of -1°C in just 30-40 seconds while the temperature is -130°C (this is impossible in an Ice Bath where skin temperature cannot drop lower than +5°C). This signal sent from skin to the brain about the new critical environment is so powerful that the brain understands immediately – there is no way to keep the peripheral parts of the body warm. Instead, blood vessels and capillaries undergo severe vasoconstriction to keep the body’s core temperature from dropping – triggering the processes described before – enrichment of blood and sending it to internal organs under higher blood pressure. This never happens in an Ice Bath.