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Cryotherapy:solution against muscle pain?

Cryotherapy:solution against muscle pain?

It has enough to make the most cautious among us shiver in advance, but its followers swear by it:cryotherapy. As its name suggests, the etymology of cryo referring to cold in ancient Greek, cryotherapy designates a method of care based on the use of cold to bear fruit - not to be confused, however, with cryogenization, this method of preserving corpses seeming straight out of science- fiction, which will indeed have the virtue of putting an end to your muscle pain, but in a definitive way!

No, cryotherapy is much less eccentric and is based on proven scientific developments and not simply speculative. The cold indeed has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties proven, and the speed and the extreme character of the drop in temperature during a session have the effect of causing a thermal shock which affects the whole organism. It is also possible that you have been exposed to this type of treatment like a good part of the general public by seeing excerpts from reports on top athletes immersed all smiles in a kind of futuristic steaming pot. But increasingly, this practice is no longer reserved for athletes alone, and applies, among other things, to pathologies that generally affect seniors:osteoarthritis or rheumatism for example. So, whether you have chronic muscle pain or are a weekend sportsman whose recovery suffers with age, what is cryotherapy and what can it do for you?

Cryotherapy, what is it exactly?

We understand that in cryotherapy, cold is used to treat various afflictions. But do not throw yourself into the first frozen lake in the area or rush outside in your underwear as soon as the thermometer drops into negative. So what exactly is it about?

If the practice has recently gained in popularity, it does not date from yesterday. The term was formulated at the beginning of the last century by William A. Pusey, a doctor from Chicago who became famous from 1907 for the use of dry ice to treat a certain number of illnesses. However, the use of cold in a therapeutic way actually goes back much further, to Antiquity. As often, our ancestors had already empirically discovered principles that will only be scientifically proven in our modern era. Thus, if one is generally familiar with the ancient baths, not everyone knows that these precisely housed cold baths, the son-in-law of Augustus, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, having ordered the construction of the oldest baths in Rome to which he will bequeath his name after being cured by the cold baths prescribed by his doctor.

To return to our modern era, cryotherapy as it is currently practiced obviously no longer has much to do with the weary baths of our Greco-Roman ancestors, whether by virtue of the environment, or the temperatures far more extreme to which patients are exposed! There are two types:

  • one practiced locally, that is to say via which only a small part of the body is exposed to the cold,
  • the other practiced on the whole body. It is the latter, initially developed in Japan during the 1970s, that interests us most here.

Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) therefore designates a method where the subject is completely immersed in extreme cold — with, depending on the method, the exception or not of his head. In one case, the whole body is immersed in a cold room, in the other, we are talking more about cryosauna, kinds of individual cabins from which only the head emerges, floating above a cloud. of carbon dioxide smoke. Both are based on substantially the same principles. The body is immersed in an extremely cold environment — less than -100°, often as low as -150° — and completely dry for only a few minutes, usually two to four.

The benefits of cryotherapy

This brief but intense exposure will result in creating a thermal shock . Indeed, the outside temperature of the body, usually around 34°, drops around 5 to 7°, while the internal temperature drops by 0.5 to 1 degree. This is what creates a thermal shock, and it is the latter which has therapeutic virtues, the body engaging reflexes to fight against the cold without being exposed to the risks that one incurs when one is a victim of hypothermia for example.

It is of course not for nothing that cryotherapy is acclaimed by top athletes. Thanks to its draining action , the cold allows you to recover better and avoid aches. But that's not all, it releases endorphins in the body, the hormones of well-being, and through its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, helps relieve pain, whether temporary or chronic ( in which case it is of course necessary to count on more sessions), and to facilitate rehabilitation after a trauma. Finally, some use it to fight against sleep or anxiety disorders, thanks to the action of cold on the nervous system. If these effects are not unanimous within the scientific community, the subjective feeling seems rather positive.

There is no risk in practicing cryotherapy on a very regular basis, including daily, if your doctor advises you to do so. It is moreover rather recommended during a cure concerning a health problem in particular, the frequency and the duration of the treatment depending on each patient and each pathology, while the effects will be felt from the first session if it is only a practice centered around well-being. For sports recovery, simply adapt it around your training:since it facilitates recovery by minimizing aches and muscle fatigue, you can resume it all the more quickly!

Anxiety about cryotherapy

Like any extreme therapeutic practice, cryotherapy has something to generate some anxiety among the uninitiated. But contrary to what one might instinctively believe, especially given the extreme temperatures to which the body is exposed, cryotherapy is not painful! Indeed, the cold is obtained using a bottle of liquid nitrogen , which makes it quite dry, and therefore much more bearable than the cold felt in winter, in a humid environment. A session is therefore generally painless, and some patients even feel sensations that are considered rather pleasant! If the body indeed undergoes a thermal shock on occasion – this is the whole purpose of the operation – there is therefore no risk of catching a cold in the process. To tell the truth, cryotherapy would also have among its many virtues that of strengthening the immune defenses . Finally, for the claustrophobic, you should know that you are not locked in the room, as you might be in the cold room of a restaurant or a warehouse. Not only do you see and communicate with your operator, but you are also free to end the experience at any time. No need to worry about getting stuck and dying of hypothermia in the cabin, therefore.

On the other hand, it is true that, due to its extreme conditions, cryotherapy must be subject to very strict supervision and only be performed by properly trained professionals , who will also be able to give instructions to patients allowing them to pass these few minutes exposed to the cold more quickly, but above all to avoid any risk of accident, the risk of burns by the cold does not not being non-existent. This is why a cryotherapy session should generally not exceed 3 minutes, otherwise you can not only end up burned but also hypothermia. A few cases of nerve damage, when the body temperature has dropped too much, have also been noted. However, if all the safety rules are respected and the therapists practicing it are well trained and aware of the characteristics of their cabin, there is no reason to worry too much about the possibility of an accident. , altogether very marginal. The parts of the body most sensitive to exposure to cold are, for example, always protected:patients wear gloves and slippers as well as ear and mouth protection.

It should also be kept in mind that there are some contraindications to the practice of cryotherapy . Here again, a competent therapist will be able to make an assessment with you beforehand, taking into account not only your objectives for the practice, and any contraindications, such as an open wound or the wearing of eye lenses or metal objects. . Similarly, the cold being communicated and particularly painful when wet, you should not take a bath or shower or practice any sports activity in the thirty minutes preceding a session (the body is also first dehumidified in a first less cold airlock). In short, everything is under control!