Cryotherapy vs. Ice Baths

Most of us know what an ice bath is, but what about cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is a sophisticated method of cold therapy involving three minutes of skin exposure to temperatures between -200°F to -250°F.
Sounds fun, right?|

While certainly fancier than a tub full of ice water, is cryotherapy any more beneficial than a simple ice bath?
Coach Hayley explains in today’s daily podcast.

Audio Transcript

Haughey: Hey Runners Connect fans. We have a great question from Mark today.
Mark: I’ve been hearing a lot about cryotherapy lately, so my question is, is cryotherapy a good recovery method in replace of an ice bath?
Haughey: That’s a great question, Mark. Ice baths have long been used by runners, and there is evidence that following intense exercise, cold water mashing can reduce muscle soreness over the next few days.
Other studies have found that taking an ice bath can rescue the drop in performance that follows high intensity exercise, so many runners don’t think twice about jumping into a tub of icy water, post exercise.
However, there’s a new method and that’s cryotherapy or cold therapy and it’s gaining popularity.
This method has become particularly popular with the top of football teams [inaudible 00:02:00] from and top rugby teams.
Uses of these cryotherapy chambers spend short periods of time at up to -211 degrees Fahrenheit, after dressing in special protective clothing to protect their skin.
However, I don’t know of any studies which have so far proven cryotherapy to be more effective than an ice bath.
There have been studies into the effectiveness of cryotherapy.
One such study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in sports, found that did nothing to less the muscle damage after resistance exercise and now they’re producing more encouraging results.
In a group of runners completing a 48-minute travel on a treadmill, it was discovered to decrease blood markers of inflammation.
However, whether this same effect could have been gained from sitting in an ice bath remains to be seen.
The benefits of cryotherapy over an ice bath are that it’s easier, quicker and there may be less chance of damage at the skin, as long as you dress appropriately.
However, it’s pretty pricey. A session here can set you back around £50, so I’m guessing around $60 to $80 where most of you guys are.
Recent research suggests that some of the benefits of ice baths might actually come from the pressure of the water on your muscles when you’re sitting in the tub, and that’s something you don’t get from cryotherapy.
When you do a hard workout, fluid from your blood defuses into the muscles and blood pours in your extremities.
The high geostatic pressure of the water counteracts, as in helps it squeeze the fluids back into the blood and towards the core.
Some scientists think that it’s this effect, along with the effect of the cold, that helps with the recovery and actually very few studies have compared immersing yourself in cold water versus immersing yourself in room temperature water, whether it is likely you do get that additional effect from the cold.
Immersing yourself in the cold water helps to reduce inflammation.
The cold itself does this and that’s why it’s recommended that you ice an injury like an ankle sprain.
You’d still get these anti-inflammatory benefits from the cryotherapy but there’s no evidence as yet to suggest that this goes above and beyond what you’d experience with an ice bath.
Personally, until further studies come out to prove this, I’d save my money and take that ice bath.
The cryotherapy is also difficult to do with as much frequency as you can do an ice bath, unless you live somewhere where you’ve got a cryotherapy chamber in your back garden, in which case go ahead, but for most people, an ice bath is a more practical option and much cheaper.
There’s so much you can do to improve recovery, like getting extra sleep and eating a healthy diet.
I’d way rather get these basics down first than paying £50 for that cryotherapy chamber.
Just get that cool down in, get some rest following your sessions, eat well, and pay attention to getting all those different colours of foods in your diet or all those different antioxidants.
These basic steps are going to help you so much more than paying £50 for the one off cryotherapy session and keep doing those ice baths for now.
There’s no evidence that cryotherapy provides any benefits above an ice bath as yet.
Hope that helps. I love that question and thanks so much for asking.
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Have a great day and be sure to tune in next time.