Does Cryotherapy Really Work? The Science Behind it

Article at a Glance

Cryotherapy is a healing modality that involves short exposures of extremely cold air, often below -166°F.

Science has validated cryotherapy’s ability to induce our bodies to regenerate themselves.

In addition to physical benefits, cold exposure has been shown to improve depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

Cryotherapy is the go-to fad therapy today. Maybe you have been to a wellness center and tried it out to get a feel for what it is that is all the fuss is about and what exactly is happening to your cells and body.

You may have thought about whether the treatment has benefits or it all hype and just the latest fad New Age wellness scheme.

Well after doing some digging into real research on cold therapies the truth starts to unravel and some empirical evidence regarding the effects on the brain and the entire body.

What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is a medical treatment that includes brief exposures of extreme cold, frequently below -166F. These extremely low temperatures are achieved with the aid of liquid nitrogen and now electric units.

It first cold rooms were presented toward the end of the 1970’s in Japan by Professor Toshiro Yamauchi who treated rheumatoid arthritis in a cryogenic chamber. He discovered that short duration freezing of the skin surface temperature has added beneficial effect than the gradual cooling of cold-water immersion.

This eventually led to whole-body cryotherapy, but its ability to repair and rehabilitate cells made it prevalent in the whole health sector.

One of the benefits is it helps decrease fatigue and pain associated with exercise, it can improve mental health, relieves chronic pain disorders, and generally improves overall well-being.

Effects on the Brain

The most important physiological effect of cryotherapy has on the brain is the increase in norepinephrine, which is involved in mood, attention, focus, and even pain reduction.

Upon being exposed to extreme cold, cold receptors on the skin signal the brain to release norepinephrine, including an overall anti-depressive outcome through initializing the sympathetic nervous system.

Effects on the Metabolism

When our bodies come in contact with extreme cold, we shiver. Shivering is a homeostatic operation, targeted at maintaining core body temperatures optimal for the proper operation of our cells.

This increase in mitochondria converts white fat tissue into brown fat tissue. While white fat tissue stores energy from food, brown fat cells burn energy and produce heat.

Effects on inflammation 

The pain- reducing and anti-inflammatory results of cryotherapy are probably the most sought after by athletes and patients. Sports medicine has used ice packs and baths to fight inflammation and sore muscles resulting from sports injuries.

The effectiveness of cryotherapy on inflammation and pain management has been demonstrated by various studies. In the example of athletes or those who work-out in general, a single session in cryotherapy chamber can enhance muscle recovery by way of the restriction of inflammatory processes.

How Many Sessions Do I Need?

According to one in depth study, 10 sessions of Whole-body Cryotherapy are needed to reduce the inflammatory response that is created by exhaustive exercise. Another study says a minimum of 20 sessions for effectiveness and 30 sessions for optimum results.


Cryotherapy’s ability to assist the body regenerate itself is incredible and quite well-backed by science. It is very important to be thoughtful and bear in mind that cryotherapy is not a treatment that should be done without supervision.

Happy Chilling!

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