The Science Behind Cold Exposure

June 13, 2023

Cold exposure, also known as Cryotherapy, is a therapeutic treatment that uses extreme cold temperatures to promote physical and mental healing and wellbeing. Cold therapy has been used for centuries in various forms, including ice baths and cold compresses. The modern cryogenic technology treats everything from muscle pain to mental health issues. By exposing the body to chilling temperatures, a physiological response is triggered that helps to reduce inflammation and pain, improve circulation, and enhance natural healing processes.

Different types of cold therapies:

  1. Whole-Body Cryotherapy:

    Whole-Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is a health and wellness treatment that involves exposing the body to temperatures between -166°F and -256°F for a brief period. WBC has been used in Europe since the 1970s and was introduced to the United States in 2009.

  2. Partial-Body Cryotherapy:

    Partial-Body Cryotherapy is a form of localized cryotherapy that uses cold temperatures to target specific areas of the body. Commonly known as “spot cryo” or “cryo-spotting,” this method has become popular in recent years to help treat various medical issues and improve physical performance. It can be used to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and relieve muscle pain.

  3. Cold-Water Immersion:

    Cold-Water Immersion therapy is a holistic healing technique that involves immersing the body in icy water. In addition to physical benefits, cold-water immersion is also known to reduce stress levels as it triggers a relaxation response in the body.

  4. Ice Application:

    Ice application therapy is a form of physical therapy used to reduce pain and swelling in the body. It involves using ice packs or other cold sources, such as gel packs, cold baths, or wraps with an icy sensation. Ice application therapy is usually performed for 10-20 minutes at a time. During this time, the area being treated is covered in a cold pack and left to rest for about 10-15 minutes.

  5. Cryoablation:

    Cryoablation is a medical procedure that uses extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissue. It uses a device that consists of a probe cooled by an extremely cold gas, such as liquid nitrogen or argon gas. The probe is inserted into the abnormal tissue. As the probe cools, it destroys the abnormal cells by freezing and killing them.

How cryotherapy works

At its core, cryotherapy works by causing vasoconstriction in the body—when cold temperatures are applied, the blood vessels constrict and shift away from the surface of the skin towards internal organs. This decreases inflammation on the surface while simultaneously increasing blood flow throughout the entire body. As a result, oxygen-rich blood can reach areas that experience chronic pain or inflammation more easily. With improved circulation comes increased endorphin production, which leads to reduced stress levels and improved moods and mental clarity.

How it offers a hormetic experience

Cryotherapy is a hormetic experience. A hormetic experience is exposure to a moderate amount of stress or adversity which results in a beneficial response. The term “hormesis” comes from the Greek word hormaein, which means to excite or stimulate. Hormetic experiences can lead to improved physical and mental health outcomes and may even help protect against disease. They can involve a variety of activities, such as physical exercise, dietary changes, exposure to cold or heat, and even psychological stress. Research suggests that these exposures can activate cellular defense mechanisms which lead to an overall increase in health.

This type of cold treatment is quickly becoming one of the most popular means for treating physical pain and discomfort as well as psychological ailments such as anxiety and depression; with more research being conducted every day into what sort of long-term effects the cold therapy might have on our overall health and wellbeing, it looks like it is here to stay!

The process uses cold temperatures to manage pain and inflammation (Source: Use of Cryotherapy for Managing Chronic Pain: An Evidence-Based Narrative – PubMed ( It works by reducing the activity of nerve endings in the area affected by inflammation or pain, thereby helping to reduce the intensity of it.

The temperature used in this type of treatment can range from mildly cool to very cold, depending on what treatment is being sought. Although there are many beneficial aspects to treatment such as increased blood circulation and reduced muscle tension, its primary use is for managing chronic pain.

Benefits of cold therapy

In addition to relieving physical pain, cold therapy has been shown in studies to have some impressive psychological benefits as well. Research has found that lowering your core body temperature through cryotherapy helps reduce anxiety levels while also improving focus and energy levels throughout the day; this is due to higher serotonin production which improves moods while providing an overall sense of wellbeing. Also, exposure to cold temperatures increases growth hormone production, which can help with weight loss efforts and muscle building goals.

Research has shown that such ice treatment can be effective in reducing the intensity of long-term musculoskeletal pain associated with conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and back pain (Source: Is the whole-body cryotherapy a beneficial supplement to exercise therapy for patients with ankylosing spondylitis? | Request PDF ( Also, it helps increase production of endorphins, which are natural hormones that help relieve stress and anxiety while providing a sense of well-being. In addition to managing chronic pain through cold therapy, it can also provide some additional benefits such as improved skin tone and improved sleep quality due to its calming effects on the body.

How cold therapy helps in treating depression and anxiety

Ice therapy treatments may also be beneficial for people who suffer from depression or anxiety since it helps reduce stress levels and induce relaxation states. Furthermore, research suggests that regular use of cryotherapy may even offer protection against certain types of cancer due to its ability to slow down cell reproduction.

For those looking for an alternative way to manage their chronic pain without taking medications or undergoing surgery, this type of therapy is worth considering. It is important to consult with a doctor before beginning any new therapy plan, however, as different individuals may react differently depending on their individual needs and medical history. Though, if done correctly cryotherapy can provide great relief from long-term chronic pain while also offering several other potential health benefits as well.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only. When considering any medical treatment, please consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider to determine if it is right for you. This article’s content should not be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you have questions about cryotherapy, speak with a medical professional who can provide individualized information on the subject.


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