Recent News and Events

by Raechel Bugner, PT, DPT, FAFS

Posted in Blog.

September 24th, 2018

Curious about Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy: it’s the latest fad in the fitness world. There are dozens of studios in NYC offering the chilly recovery tool and loads of health and fitness gurus posting about the trend on their social media accounts. But is it just that- a trend– or is there actually some physiologic benefit to freezing your “you-know-what” off in the name of athletic performance?


First, let’s agree on what cryotherapy actually is. Cryotherapy, in general, is the use of ice or cold for the purpose of tissue recovery or pain modulation (think icing an ankle after a sprain, or plunging into an ice bath after a hard workout).  What’s become popular more recently is referred to as whole body cryotherapy (WBC). During WBC, the client will stand in a sauna-like chamber that will cool, through liquid nitrogen, as low as -185 degrees F for 2-3 minutes- pretty cold, but a bit more tolerable than the 15 minute ice baths athletes tortured themselves with in college.

Now, let’s discuss how cryotherapy works. Exposure of the entire body to extremely frigid temperatures “tricks” the body into believing it’s in danger of literally freezing to death. The body’s natural instinct is to constrict blood vessels in the extremities (arms and legs) and draw blood toward the core to keep vital organs (like the heart, lungs etc) warm and alive. Once the athlete exits the chamber (after 2-3 minutes), they are asked to complete some type of whole body cardio (i.e. riding an exercise bike) to allow blood vessels in the arms and legs to expand so that blood flow to the extremities can resume. This “flushing” mechanism is thought to decrease inflammation, increase adrenaline, and decrease pain.


Should athletes really submit themselves to this icy sauna? A review of recent research reveals that WBC has several legitimate benefits for athletes and average joe’s alike.


  1. Boost Recovery from “Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage” (EIMD): This seems to be the most frequently researched benefit of WBC. Commonly, researchers have used inflammatory markers or the presence of cytokines (which can indicate muscle damage) to measure whether or not cryo can hasten an athlete’s recovery time after a tough workout. Several studies have shown that WBC does, in fact, improve muscle recovery by decreasing cytokines and pro-inflammatory markers while increasing anti-inflammatory markers in the subjects exposed to WBC 1,2. The faster an athlete recovers, the quicker they can get back to training at a high level of intensity.
  2. Improve Athletic Performance: Less well researched than recovery, there have still been several studies that demonstrate WBC’s ability to improve athletic performance if done consistently (it’s recommended that cryo is completed 4-5 times in the first week to achieve optimum benefits). One such study demonstrated improvement in tennis player’s stroke effectiveness following 5 days of twice a day cryo sessions 2. Who wouldn’t want to freeze for a few minutes if it meant they could run a little faster?!
  3. Decrease Systemic Inflammation: This goes along with what was discussed in #1, but on a larger, whole body (systemic) scale and pertaining more specifically to the body’s ability to heal after injury (rather than recover from normal muscular damage after an intense workout). Systemic inflammation is a chronic elevation of inflammatory markers in the body- often caused by prolonged, high levels of physical or emotional stress. This type of inflammation is thought to contribute to a variety of ailments and can prevent otherwise mundane injuries (such as a muscle strain, or tendonitis) from healing. Because inflammation is one of the first signs of injury, when the body is in a chronic state of elevated inflammatory markers, it has difficulty discerning that there is a new injury that needs to be healed; this contributes to longer than normal healing time. As mentioned previously, following WBC, there is a decrease in pro inflammatory markers throughout the body, meaning a decrease in systemic inflammation (hopefully leading to improved healing of those nagging injuries!) 1,2,3.
  4. Improve your mood (Decrease Anxiety and Depression!): A surprising benefit to cryotherapy, several studies have researched the effects of WBC on mental health in clients with depression and/or anxiety 4,5. The mechanism  for improved mental health is not entirely clear yet, but it’s thought that the same circulatory and hormonal changes that contribute to pain management when ice is applied to an injury, is the same system that enhances mental wellbeing 5. This is great news for anyone who suffers from a mental health disorder regardless of whether or not they’re an athlete.




Interested in trying cryotherapy? If you purchase an unlimited monthly package for October at a 26.2% discount of $294.45 you will unlock an unlimited monthly package for November at a 50% discount of 199.50!


Give our office a call at 212.486.8573 for more details and scheduling!



  1. Pournot H, Bieuzen F, Louis J, Mounier R, Fillard JR, et al. (2011)Correction: Time-Course of Changes in Inflammatory Response after Whole-Body Cryotherapy Multi Exposures following Severe Exercise. PLOS ONE 6(11): 10.1371


  1. Ziemann E., Olek R. A., Kujach S., Grzywacz T., Antosiewicz J., Garsztka T., et al. . (2012). Five-day whole-body cryostimulation, blood inflammatory markers, and performance in high-ranking professional tennis players. J. Athl. Train. 47, 664–672. 10.4085/1062-6050-47.6.13


  1. Lubkowska A, Szyguła Z, Chlubek D, Banfi G (2011) 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, 71:5, 419-425, DOI: 10.3109/00365513.2011.580859


  1. Rymaszewska J, Tulczynski A, Zagrobelny Z, Kiejna A, Hadrys T. Influence of whole body cryotherapy on depressive symptoms – preliminary report. Acta Neuropyschiatrica 2003: 15:122–128. # Blackwell Munksgaard 2003


  1. Rymaszewska J, Ramsey D, Chladzinska-Kiejna S (2008) Whole Body Cryotherapy as Adjunct Treatment of Depressive and Anxiety Disorders. Arch Immunol Ther Exp. 56(1), 63-68.DOI: 10.1007/s00005-008-0006-5
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