The role of whole-body cryotherapy in America’s silent killer
22 April 2019 / 0 comments

Chronic inflammation is regarded as America’s silent killer1 and has been a contributing factor in different America’s health trends2. The centers for disease control and prevention put the prevalence of adult obesity in the US  at 66%, 20% of the population is affected by arthritis, and joint disease and 18.8 million American adults have symptoms of depression. Whole body cryotherapy is a cool trend finding its primary application in optimizing recovery for sports activity and increasing vitality needs, but is there a role of whole-body cryotherapy concerning chronic inflammation?

The inflammatory response and how to apply local cryotherapy was the topic of our previous blog (add a hyperlink to blog from October). In this blog, we explained the difference between acute and chronic inflammation, in which chronic inflammation:

  1. leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation 
  2. was characterized by simultaneous destruction and healing of the tissue from the inflammatory process. 

While local cryotherapy finds its primary application in acute settings focusing on musculoskeletal disorders, whole-body cryotherapy, on the other hand, might have a role in the diseases and complications mentioned above. Lubkowska and colleagues3 were among the first to find evidence that whole body cryotherapy has an anti-inflammatory effect. In their study, whole body cryotherapy (20 sessions in 4 weeks) resulted in an increased level of the anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-10 with a decreased level of the pro-inflammatory cytokine Il-1α. Based on their results:

“It is worth noting that the changes depend on the duration of the stimulation series. Although the most common procedures are limited to 10 cryo-stimulations, our results suggest the use of 20 stimulations to induce adaptations changes." 

Chronic inflammation is associated with many different types of diseases and complications like:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Bone, muscular & skeletal diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Chronic inflammatory diseases
  • Neurological disorders (e.g., depression)
  • Diabetic complications (e.g., obesity)
  • Metabolic disorder complications
  • Cancer

And different studies have shown the potential role of whole-body cryotherapy in relieving symptoms associated. For instance in rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, and depression.

Whole body cryotherapy and rheumatoid arthritis

One disease in which chronic inflammation plays a significant role in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints. It typically results in warm, swollen and painful joints. A study of Guillot and colleagues4 concluded that whole body cryotherapy (based on the pooling of several studies) has a significant effect on both pain and disability in rheumatoid patients (see figure 1). Multiple whole body cryotherapy sessions should be recommended for these patients.

Figure 1: Effects of whole-body cryotherapy on pain and disability scores in rheumatoid patients (figure extracted from Guillot et al. 2014).

Whole body cryotherapy and obesity

Chronic inflammation is strongly associated with obesity. Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent it may hurt health (body mass index >30 kg/m2). Dulian and colleagues5 concluded that a series of ten sessions (at -110°C for 3 minutes) of whole-body cryotherapy in two weeks’ time in obese men resulted in a significant anti-inflammatory effect. An effect that maintained for a more extended period after the last session.

Whole body cryotherapy and depression

Growing evidence6 supports that different forms of depression are linked with chronic inflammation. Szczepańska-Gieracha and colleagues7 concluded that whole-body cryotherapy has a significant influence on improving the well-being and mood of patients (regarding both psychological and somatic aspects) and consequently leads to an improvement in their quality of life. The worse the mental state of the patients is before the cryotherapy, the stronger the effect.

More studies concerning diseases and complications associated with chronic inflammation are necessary. These studies should focus on more significant study populations and longer follow-up times. Though, based on the published results so far, we do believe there is a potential role for whole body cryotherapy as an adjunct to the complete approach that targets chronic inflammation. Thereby helping to treat this silent killer…

References

  1. https://www.advancedcenterforpain.com/single-post/2017/10/18/Exposing-Americas-Silent-Killer-Chronic-inflammation
  2. http://www.best-rn-to-bsn.com/chronic/
  3. Lubkowska, A., Szyguła, Z., Chlubek, D. & Banfi, G. The effect of prolonged whole-body cryostimulation treatment with different amounts of sessions on chosen pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines levels in healthy men. Scand. J. Clin. Lab. Invest. 71, 419–425 (2011).
  4. Guillot, X. et al. Cryotherapy in inflammatory rheumatic diseases: a systematic review. Expert Rev Clin Immunol 10, 281–294 (2014).
  5. Dulian, K. et al. The whole body cryostimulation modifies irisin concentration and reduces inflammation in middle aged, obese men. Cryobiology 71, 398–404 (2015).
  6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-survival/201701/new-research-shows-depression-linked-inflammation
  7. Szczepańska-Gieracha, J., Borsuk, P., Pawik, M. & Rymaszewska, J. Mental state and quality of life after 10 session whole-body cryotherapy. Psychol Health Med 19, 40–46 (2014).
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