Skip to content Skip to footer

How Cryotherapy Can Help with Exercise Recovery

Next Health Staff | | 0 comments

How Cryotherapy Can Help with Exercise Recovery

Gym-goers and professional athletes are always looking for the next major body hack that allows them to shortcut the time they have to spend recovering from an intense workout or minimize the muscle soreness they feel from intense physical activity, whether it's a protein-filled workout snack, cold water immersion, or tai chi. 

Gym goers know the importance of rehydration and electrolytes, using a heart rate monitor to plan your training schedules, and maintaining good nutrition through a diet filled with carbohydrates and vegetables. But it's also tempting to look past taking in enough fluids, watching your blood pressure, and using foam rollers to other ways you can maximize your active recovery days, speed up muscle repair, and improve your range of motion. There are lots of gimmicks out there to try, but cryotherapy isn’t one of them.

In fact, cryotherapy is the opposite of a gimmick: it's a tried-and-true physical treatment that can provide significant benefits to athletes and serious exercisers by reducing muscle recovery time, inducing feelings of wellness and reduced stress, and more.

But it’s one thing to hear that cryotherapy can assist with exercise recovery. It’s another thing to know exactly how the process works and why you should trust it.  

Before you sign up for a cryotherapy session with Next|Health, read on to understand how cryotherapy assists with exercise recovery more effectively than any other type of whole-body treatment available.

Cryotherapy in a Nutshell

Cryotherapy is an innovative, whole-body treatment now offered at clinics like Next|Health and other wellness centers. However, the therapy has its roots in historical practices in cold locations like Scandinavia and Russia. In these places, individuals used to take ice baths to recover from workouts or to improve their moods and energy levels.

Modern technology now allows everyone to benefit from cryotherapy by visiting a clinic like Next|Health.

Here’s how cryotherapy works in brief:

  • A patient is exposed to a chilling agent like liquid nitrogen or argon gas. The chilling agent is applied to the patient’s body, rapidly cooling down the surface level temperature, oftentimes to degrees greater than -150°F.
  • As the body detects the change in temperature, a survival instinct kicks in. Blood vessels near surface tissues contract and blood is rerouted to the central organs to keep the interior of the body warm and boost its odds of survival.
  • The body releases endorphins, which are feel-good neurochemicals often related to reduced stress, improved mood, and more.
  • At the same time, inflammation throughout the body is reduced as inflamed tissues are brought back down to normal levels because of the intense cold.
  • After a few minutes have passed, the patient exits the whole body cryotherapy chamber and warms up progressively. Blood flow returns to the extremities and surface-level tissues, bringing nutrients from the center of the body to those tissues.

It’s important to only undergo cryotherapy at licensed clinics like Next|Health. Because cryotherapy involves exposing your body to very cold temperatures for minutes at a time, attempting to perform cryotherapy yourself at home can lead to hypothermia or other risky side effects.

At Next|Health, patients are observed the entire time to ensure that they don’t spend too long in the cryotherapy chamber and that their bodies don’t react negatively to the therapy.

So, how exactly can cryotherapy assist with exercise recovery? Why have athletes take ice baths after an intense game or a massive workout session? To understand that, you have to understand a condition called delayed-onset muscle soreness.

Exercise and DOMS

Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is an extremely common syndrome among athletes, hardcore exercisers, and anyone who might be crossing the line to overtraining. However, it’s also even more common in new gym-goers or those who aren’t used to intense skeletal and muscular exertion.

For these reasons, it’s most often seen during preseason training or when athletes switch from one major sport to another (since they work out different muscle groups). When this occurs, muscles that aren’t used to activity are easier to tear or damage, which increases the frequency of pain or discomfort.

In a nutshell, DOMS is characterized by intense pain, swelling, and loss of muscular function that starts around 24 hours after exercise or intense physical activity has ceased. In the interim, the exerciser or athlete may feel perfectly fine and even believe that they managed to work out without any negative side effects.

But DOMS quickly proves them wrong and results in intense pain in activated muscle groups. Muscles inflame significantly and, in the worst-case scenarios, can even experience muscle damage (though it is reversible). Individuals may also see that their limbs or muscles swell visibly on the body.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to really stop DOMS from setting in if you haven’t worked out recently and decided to go to the gym for the first time in a long while, or if you’re an athlete who took a few months off between the previous season and the upcoming season.

However, cryotherapy has long been proven to assist with DOMS and other exercise-related pains or stressors.

How Cryotherapy Affects DOMS

One of the primary effects of cryotherapy is shrinking blood vessels and reducing inflammation. Inflammation is best understood as soreness and cellular damage to muscles or other tissues.

Since cryotherapy includes applying cold agents to surface-level tissues and the muscles underneath, cryotherapy directly counteracts many of the effects of DOMS and can even mitigate how bad it gets. In the best-case scenarios, cryotherapy can shortcut how long someone has to deal with DOMS, thereby increasing their recovery time.

As the body's tissues cool down, blood vessels constrict and new blood is sent to surface-level tissues less frequently. Inflammation is dramatically reduced and the swelling effect mentioned earlier is cut short.

Once a cryotherapy session is over, nutrient-rich blood floods the muscles and surface-level tissues, inducing faster cellular regeneration and minimizing the harm that DOMS may cause. By causing faster cellular regeneration, cryotherapy also reduces how intense any DOMS symptoms may be.

Furthermore, cryotherapy causes the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are specialized neurochemicals that bind to special receptors in the brain, relieving stress and causing pleasure. 

In other words, they directly counteract the soreness and stress that DOMS is known to cause. With enough endorphins, your body may not even feel sore or painful and your mood may improve at the same time.

Therefore, athletes or gym-goers wanting to minimize recovery time or discomfort after an intense exercise session would do well to consider a cryotherapy appointment at Next|Health.

Other Benefits of Cryotherapy for Athletes/Exercisers

Cryotherapy isn't just good for its alleviating effects on DOMS. Athletes and exercisers can also benefit from cryotherapy during their passive recovery days for these reasons:

  • Faster muscle recovery time overall. As mentioned, cryotherapy causes nutrient-rich blood to reach the muscles more quickly than it otherwise would. That means your muscles will repair themselves quickly and you'll build new muscle tissue more rapidly than you would before.

  • Less stress and fatigue. By minimizing how exhausted you feel, cryotherapy can help you get back into the gym for another exercise session or help you play your best during an upcoming game. Less stress also improves your mood and can help you concentrate or focus on your physical goals more acutely.

  • Decreased pain. Even under the best circumstances and when following perfect form, people who go to the gym often experience muscle soreness or joint soreness, especially as they get older. The same holds true for athletes; you aren’t playing your best without some blood, sweat, and bruises on the battlefield. 

    Fortunately, cryotherapy can offer pain relief  both by inducing endorphin release in the brain and by numbing the nerves in your skin and muscles. The direct numbing effect literally wipes pain away. This, of course, can also improve your mood by making you feel more comfortable over a few minutes. Some studies have shown that cryotherapy can help reduce different types of pain such as general pain,inflammation, swelling, degeneration etc. 

In total, cryotherapy – even if it's something simple like an ice-cold bath – can do wonders for improving the post-workout or post-game experience for athletes and exercisers in several ways, whether you're following up high-intensity interval training, resistance training, or even a low-intensity exercise routine.

Summary

Traditional post-exercise muscle recovery techniques like massages and yoga, foam rolling, and vitamins and minerals like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are great, but it's time to incorporate cryotherapy into your workout routine. 

Fortunately, you can get cryotherapy at specialty health clinics like Next|Health. We have several clinic locations throughout the U.S. and are currently taking appointments for this innovative new therapy.

While other locations may offer cryotherapy using nitrogen gas, we use specialized whole body cryo- chambers and don’t rely on liquid nitrogen for our chambers’ cooling effects. Our new version of this therapy is particularly intense and effective, and it only requires three minutes of exposure to the cooling agents before you feel real effects.

You can go in by yourself or with a partner and you’ll be supervised the entire duration of your session by one of our wellness specialists. Our cryotherapy sessions are thorough and fast, and you’ll be given a comfortable lounge to recuperate in after the cryotherapy session ends.

Still have more questions about Next|Health’s cryotherapy and how it works? Contact us today and ask one of our wellness specialists for more information.



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

Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors | NCBI

Whole-Body Cryotherapy in Athletes: From Therapy to Stimulation. An Updated Review of the Literature | NCBI 

Cryotherapy Reduces Inflammatory Response | NCBI