Since, June of 2019, we have administered over 4,300 Whole Body Cryotherapy sessions. If you have been a part of that number, you have heard me say that I am continuously wowed and amazed by how our clients feel afterwards! But the question always comes up..."Why Whole Body Cryotherapy versus just a cold shower, a cold plunge, or even an ice bath?" The benefits of cold are NOT created equal. There are similarities, but depending upon your personal goal, the differences are important to note.
Any exposure to cold temperatures challenges our body’s natural ability to control its internal temperature. The exposure can range from normal to extreme. All ranges of cold exposure, when safely administered, can be powerful for our health but the outcome can be VERY different. The resulting health benefits are determined based upon your body’s perceived level of danger.
During a 3-minute Whole Body Cryotherapy session, your body is “tricked” into believing there is a significant threat. The rapid cooling of the skin, a decrease of ~25 degrees Fahrenheit, sends a signal to initiate vasoconstriction which results in the process of protecting the core and its vital functions. While here, the blood is enriched with oxygen, becomes nutrient-dense, and flooded with enzymes… “super charged”. Once the session ends and the perceived threat is no longer present, the “super charged” blood goes racing out back to its extremities fueling the body’s natural healing process of reducing systemic inflammation. The body feels warm, energized, and releases happy hormones. Whole Body Cryotherapy does not penetrate muscle tissue, it only cools the skin as a “trick”, thereby allowing an athlete to return to its training immediately. As a bonus, the body registers that it might need extra help to fight other threats, so it generates extra white blood cells to fight infections, bacteria, and viruses!
On the other hand, when utilizing a cold shower, cold plunge or an ice bath, your body assesses the situation as a discomfort not a threat. Each of these exposures range from a topical cooling to a slow, gradual body cooling. A brief vasoconstriction may occur, but it does typically NOT trigger the benefits caused by protecting your core. These therapies can result in physical and psychological resilience as well as soothing sore, achy muscles. It is important to note, that because the cold penetrates the muscle tissues in an ice bath, athletes must wait for their muscles to return to normal before resuming activity.
Again, both are beneficial when safely administered, and have their place in your wellness toolbox. It’s for you to decide which is right for you. For an even deeper explanation of the differences between the two, click here.