Ask most athletes what their least favorite part of a post-game routine is and you will likely hear: the ice baths. Notoriously painful and time consuming, they make lesser mortals recoil at the thought of such cold agony. So It is understandable
when Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is chalked up as just a more technological form of ice bath. But is it? Or could it be an enhanced form of recovery that creates a competitive advantage for athletes in the know?
To understand where the differences lie, we first need to understand the basic mechanics of how the body reacts to cold. At 40F(typical ice bath temperature) the body tries to avoid hypothermia in a very predictable fashion: by pumping
MORE blood to the limbs to keep them warm through a process called vasodilation. However, at cryogenic temperatures of -220F typical in WBC the body believes hypothermia is inevitable and switches to more drastic survival mode,
vasoconstriction. This process pumps all available warm blood to the core in an effort to preserve organ functionality (effectively the opposite of an ice bath). Both of these achieve vascular flushing though, which reduces inflammation
in the short term. So they are the same right? Well not so fast.
Looking more closely at what happens during an ice bath, we notice the core temperature goes down, tissue begins to freeze, and muscles temporarily lose elasticity. Muscle tissue then needs time to return to normal which requires the
body to rest. Therefore, an ice bath needs to be scheduled at the end of a rigorous workout or after an event so that athletes can recuperate overnight.
By contrast, in the WBC method the core remains very warm, and because the cold only penetrates ½ mm into the skin surface (to the skin’s temperature receptors) to create the illusion of hypothermia, there is no tissue damage or necessary
recuperation time from the therapy itself. Accordingly, athletes may use the cryosauna both before and after a workout which is an effect that is impossible to realize with an ice bath. But is this enough to merit switching routines?
Because ice is cheap and readily available, if time isn't important, why change? Well….
Another significant difference between the two modalities comes from what is happening to the blood itself in the process. As WBC pulls blood into the core it also begins deep filtration, cleaning up metabolites from injured tissues
and inflammation triggering hormones, and oxygenating it for deployment to injured areas. After 3 minutes in the cryosauna, when the athlete returns to room temperature, this oxygen rich, nutrient filled, newly cleaned blood rushes
back out targeting the muscle areas with greatest microtearing. And THIS is where WBC truly shines, shortening recovery times from 72 to as little as 24 hours.
As an added bonus, the body now throws a little endorphin party to euphorically celebrate having survived what it perceived to be a seriously frigid threat. And for athletes that use WBC before an event, this can be another source
of game changing advantage. So why not try it for yourself? Schedule your session at Arctic Glow Cryospa and experience the healing power of cold.