- by Dr Ankita Bhatia
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- Nov 22 2017
WHAT IS CRYOTHERAPY?
Cryotherapy comes from the Greek word cryo (cold) and therapy (cure). Cryotherapy is a pain relief therapy that involves the use of cold temperatures. Cryotherapy was invented in the 1970s in Japan and gained popularity in other countries only in the last decade. In 1978, a rheumatologist in Japan named Toshima Yamaguchi found that subjecting the body to extreme cold allowed rheumatoid arthritis patients to move better and feel less pain for up to four hours post treatment.
Athletes, fitness enthusiasts and celebrities are the common practitioners of this form of therapy.
Cryotherapy uses a method of localised freezing temperatures to deaden or numb an irritated nerve. It is effective in reducing muscular pain, spasms, swelling, inflammation, improve and fasten recovery and slow cell aging process.
Cryotherapy is also used to treat localized areas of some cancers (cryosurgery), such as prostate cancer and abnormal skin cells or lesions by dermatologists.
Cryotherapy treatment can range from the very low technology application to high end treatments such as:
Use of ice packs
Immersion in ice baths (cold therapy)
Use of cold chambers (for whole body or partial body cryotherapy)
Face masks or body cuffs with controlled temperature, also referred to as hilotherm
In cryotherapy, a probe is inserted into the tissue next to the affected or irritated nerve. The temperature of the probe is dropped to effectively freeze the nerve. The freezing inactivates or numbs the nerve, resulting in relieving the painful nerve irritation.
While cryotherapy can greatly help to soothe and relief nerve irritation. It does come with a few risks and just like the benefits the risks also need further study. Cryotherapy can lead to lung collapse if the procedure is performed near the lung. It can also lead to nerve damage and cause motor weakness. Pregnant women and those suffering from heart conditions should generally avoid this therapy.
Listen to your body and determine how much cold and hot temperatures it can withstand. If you push yourself too hard, you may end up harming yourself.
Remember that cryotherapy is only an alternate option and is not a cure or a treatment. The benefits do not last long and you would need proper medical care for long term relief.
Cryotherapy is a relatively safe and effective means of treating localized nerve irritation. However, whole body cryotherapy is somewhat new and research is being carried out to judge its efficacy. Although cryotherapy is widely used, reports regarding its effectiveness suggest further research.
Talk to a physiotherapist if you feel cryotherapy can help you achieve short term relief.
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