Cryotherapy conjures up thoughts of sci-fi movies and frozen brains stored away until science advances and brings them back to life. But real-life cryotherapy is less whimsical and far more practical.
The concept is simple: Cold temperatures ease pain. But in practice, cryotherapy takes on several forms and targets various conditions. Here to explain the benefits of cryotherapy is Dr. Stanley Mathew, our triple-board-certified physician at the American Rehabilitation Center in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Anamosa, Iowa. As a pain management specialist, Dr. Mathew uses the most advanced technology and stays current with the latest research to provide you with the most effective treatments.
In the simplest terms, cryotherapy is using cold temperatures to treat various medical conditions, and anyone who has ever iced an injury understands the concept.
Cryotherapy can either be localized — think of a bag of frozen peas placed on a sprained ankle — or generalized, meaning it chills your whole body. For whole-body cryotherapy, you enter a cold chamber that surrounds you in -200℉ to -300℉ air for 2-4 minutes. You can also undergo partial-body cryotherapy, where most of your body is chilled, but your head stays at room temperature, or cold-water immersion, which dunks your body parts in super-cold water.
The concept is nothing new; the ancient Greeks used cold water to relax, and 19th-century soldiers used ice to numb pain during surgical procedures.
Modern medicine uses more sophisticated forms of cryotherapy for various medical conditions, including joint pain.
How cryotherapy treats chronic joint pain
When we talk about chronic joint pain, we’re usually talking about arthritis, but other conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis, can affect your joints, too.
Recent research has shown that cryotherapy can be an effective treatment for chronic joint pain, particularly for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, cryotherapy tackles the hallmarks of joint pain, namely pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Dr. Mathew recommends cryotherapy for our patients with chronic joint pain because he can attest to its effectiveness. Studies back what we witness here daily, reporting that cryotherapy calms inflammation, disrupts the transmission of pain signals, and reduces oxidative stress so you regain mobility and experience relief.
Who should consider cryotherapy?
Generally speaking, those with mild-to-moderate joint pain are good candidates for cryotherapy, while those with severe joint damage may not benefit as much. Your age and medical history could also disqualify you, as can pregnancy or certain heart conditions. Dr. Mathew discusses all the benefits and risks of cryotherapy before recommending it.
If chronic joint pain limits your ability to do the things you love, cryotherapy may be the drug-free, noninvasive solution you’ve been searching for. Learn more by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Mathew online or calling any of our three Iowa locations.