A Japanese rheumatologist is credited with first using short-duration freezing sessions on patients’ skin for pain management in the late 1970s. Physicians in Europe then developed whole body cryotherapy to treat inflammatory injuries and disorders, according to manufacturers’ and distributors’ websites.
With cryotherapy, an individual steps into a chamber, wearing only gloves, socks and slippers to protect their extremities. The head and neck remain at room temperature above the chamber.
As the chamber fills with nitrogen gas the temperature typically drops to an average of negative 200 to 245 degrees, rapidly lowering skin temperature to approximately 32 degrees.
The extreme cold tricks the brain into believing the body is in danger of freezing and that it cannot keep the arms and legs warm. The brain signals the body to push all the blood to the core to keep the vital organs and core temperature warm enough to survive, ssays Mark Murdock, Co-Owner of CryoUSA, a national distributor of cryosauna systems. Blood remains close to the body’s core, filtering through the cardiovascular system much faster than normal throughout a cryotherapy session, which can last up to three minutes.
Once out of the cold, the brain detects the return to room temperature. The purified, enriched oxygenated blood rapidly circulates throughout the body, says Hope Adams, a licensed massage therapist at CryoUSA.