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How Does Cryotherapy Improve Endorphin Release?

Next Health Staff | | 0 comments

How Does Cryotherapy Improve Endorphin Release?

Cryotherapy was once regarded as an elusive treatment only reserved for athletes or professional weightlifters; it’s now one of the most successful and revolutionary treatments that everyone can enjoy. Cryotherapy is offered at clinics like Next|Health at each of our main locations.

Alongside preventing your muscles from feeling sore after an intense workout, people also enjoy cryotherapy for its mood-boosting benefits and the release of endorphins it causes. 

But how exactly does cryotherapy improve endorphin release, and why does the body release endorphins when exposed to cold temperatures?

The answers to these questions are rooted in biology and even the survival instincts of our predecessors. Let’s break down how cryotherapy can boost endorphin release in your body.

Cryotherapy Explained

Cryotherapy as a therapeutic technique has been around for decades. Certain groups (such as Russian athletes) have been using a form of cryotherapy for hundreds of years. They jump into cold water to revitalize the senses and provide their bodies with certain physiological benefits.

Today, cryotherapy treatments can be pursued at wellness clinics like Next|Health. Modern cryotherapy techniques involve using nitrogen or other materials to fully cool the entire body. By exposing the body to severe cold, physiological effects are induced for different purposes or health advantages.

Additionally, cryotherapy is preferred by many people since it is not very invasive. When performed correctly, it doesn’t usually lead to side effects or require patients to spend a lot of time recovering from the procedure. Cryotherapy is also not uncomfortable when done in a safe location when under the supervision of a wellness expert.

How Does Cryotherapy Work?

Here’s how cryotherapy works:

  • A patient is led to a cryotherapy chamber, either a small room or a small cylinder with the head area exposed.
  • In either case, the patient is then exposed to extremely cold (temperatures like -150 degrees F).
  • The patient remains in the cryotherapy chamber for between two and five minutes, although three minutes is usually enough time for the body to benefit from the treatment.
  • The patient is observed throughout the entire process to ensure there aren’t any side effects and cancel the treatment early if the patient becomes uncomfortable.

After stepping out of the cryotherapy chamber, the patient’s body is given time to warm up. 

At the cellular level, cryotherapy causes blood vessels in the body to constrict blood flow to the extremities or surface tissues to stop. The body essentially enters a “fight or flight” mode and directs most of its blood flow to the internal organs, which is a safety measure designed to protect the body during times of actual danger.

As the cryotherapy treatment ends, blood flow is restored to the extremities and outer tissues, causing blood vessels to widen and relax.

Does Cryotherapy Release Endorphins?

Yes — or, more specifically, it causes the body to release more endorphins than it usually does. 

As the body's internal temperature drops significantly, your brain and other organs release certain hormones as well as brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin (the love hormone). It may be that this is a defensive mechanism. For example, in times of danger, the body releases adrenaline so that a person can escape the danger or fight their way to safety.

Similarly, neurochemicals like endorphins may be released automatically by the body in times of physiological stress. Since high endorphin levels make you feel better and relieve feelings of exhaustion or fatigue, endorphin production may have been useful for ensuring our human ancestors’ survival in harsh environments. An endorphin boost can even support your immune response, help regulate your appetite, and temporarily block pain receptors.

What Are Endorphins? 

Endorphins are specialized neurochemicals that the body releases into the bloodstream for various reasons and under certain pressures or stressors. Endorphins’ primary effect in relieving pain, discomfort, or stress in the body, which is where their name comes from; the word is a mixture of endogenous and morphine, as the endorphin is a natural pain reliever.

At the chemical level, endorphins are made up of large groups of peptides produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and central nervous system. Once released, endorphins bind to opiate receptors in the brain, boosting good feelings and reducing pain. The resulting feeling is overall pleasant and relaxing.

In most cases, the body releases endorphins whenever there is a lot of pain or stress. However, endorphins can also be released during other activities, such as intense exercise like HIIT or prolonged cardio (creating a "runner's high"), sexual activity, laughter, or even eating delicious foods like dark chocolate. Spicy foods like hot peppers and chili peppers, in particular, trigger endorphin release because of a substance in those spicy foods called capsaicin. Endorphins can also be released through wellness practices like meditation, massage therapy, and acupuncture.  

In this way, endorphins are fairly similar to the “feel good” hormone dopamine, though they are slightly different.

Why Are Endorphins Released During Cryotherapy?

In short, endorphins are released because cryotherapy is a voluntary type of stress you expose your body to. When you undergo whole body cryotherapy, its surface tissues are significantly chilled. The body has no way of knowing that the therapy is designed for its benefit, so it triggers survival measures in participants like endorphin release.

This doesn’t mean cryotherapy hurts – quite the opposite! But stress is stress, and making your body work more intensely than it normally does in our modern environment kickstarts endorphin release anyway.

Does Cryotherapy Hurt?

Not at all, although it may feel slightly uncomfortable or shockingly cold to people who are not prepared for the therapy. Furthermore, every cryotherapy session is overseen by a Next|Health wellness specialist or technician who stands by to ensure that patients can leave the cryo- chambers if they start to feel side effects or feel uncomfortable.

Cryotherapy does release endorphins, but it’s not because it’s painful. Remember, endorphins can also be removed from other activities. In general, these neurochemicals are released when the body undergoes significant physical stressors, not just pain.

You should also remember that many people have experienced cryotherapy before. It’s not painful – otherwise, athletes, serious workout enthusiasts, and busy professionals wouldn’t rely on it for regular endorphin boosts!

Is Endorphin Release the Only Benefit from Cryotherapy?

As the endorphins are released into your bloodstream, they contribute to some of the many benefits cryotherapy sessions are known to provide, including:

  • Decreased recovery time after intense athletic performance. Whether it's aerobic exercise, strength training, or an active rest day, many athletes and exercisers experience delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. This is characterized by soreness in the muscles and tendons. As endorphins flood the bloodstream, they can reduce the perception of pain and tension and help blood vessels relax after the cryotherapy session is complete. This also helps nutrient-rich blood to reach those muscles and surface-level tensions, thereby increasing their regeneration rate.
  • Improved mood overall. Endorphins significantly affect the level of emotional stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms you feel from your day-to-day routine or a stressful job. Endorphins can help patients feel better about their lives, improve self-esteem, and help individuals recover more quickly from stressful life events.
  • In addition to creating feelings of euphoria, the endorphins released by your body may also have benefits for your immune system. By illuminating stress and fatigue from your body, your immune system will be improved, and your tissues might experience less inflammation. Overall, this may result in you being less susceptible to disease or inflammation-related cellular wear and tear.
  • Better sleep, specifically REM sleep. We sleep better when we are less stressed, so the sudden endorphin rush you get from cryotherapy can help you get more REM cycles during your sleep.

As you can see, there are lots of benefits to cryotherapy when applied correctly. Overall, endorphins significantly improve how you feel, both physically and mentally, and they are one of the biggest reasons people seek out cryotherapy from providers like Next|Health.

Where To Get Cryotherapy Treatment

At Next|Health, we offer a revolutionary spin on cryotherapy treatments. Unlike other wellness clinics or cryotherapy providers, we don’t use nitrogen in our whole cryotherapy chambers. Instead, we use electrically cooled cryotherapy chambers that you and a partner can enter for three minutes to receive holistic, long-lasting benefits.

This reinvigorating and whole-body treatment is a perfect refresh for anyone stressed out from their daily routine or work responsibilities. In Next|Health’s cryotherapy treatment, the body is subjected to temperatures of less than 150°F. The physiological benefits described above occur almost immediately as the body’s protective responses are jumpstarted.

All told, Next|Health’s cryotherapy treatment can assist with athletic performance, enhance beauty or skin health by boosting collagen production and cellular regeneration, improve or accelerate exercise relief, boost mood, and decrease inflammation all around.

Fortunately, we offer our cryotherapy treatment at each of our clinic locations

Contact us today or locate a Next|Health clinic near you to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists. They’ll also be able to answer any questions you might have regarding this treatment and its efficacy. 



Sources:

Cryotherapy: Can it stop your pain cold? | Harvard

"Understanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management" by Adam S Sprouse-Blum, BA, Greg Smith | NCBI

Biochemistry, Endorphin - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

The use of whole-body cryotherapy: time- and dose-response investigation on circulating blood catecholamines and heart rate variability | NCBI