You may have heard some of the public chatter recently about “cryotherapy.” But here’s the problem: there’s absolutely zero scientific proof it works.
For what it’s worth, some celebrities, like Lindsay Lohan, believe it works. But, that doesn’t mean you should believe in it at all.
What is Cryotherapy? How Does It Theoretically Work?
Cryotherapy seems somewhat futuristic. You’ve seen it used in science fiction movies to freeze bodies so they don’t age and wake up years in the future.
This kind of cryotherapy uses localized freezing temperatures to deaden an irritated nerve. A probe gets inserted into the soft tissue next to the nerve. The probe’s temperature drops quickly to freeze the nerve. This freezing inactivates the nerve, and in theory, ends the pain. Supposedly, it helps the affected area of your body recover faster from the pain too.
Athletes use it to increase performance prior to a contest, and to aid quicker recovery afterwards. Regular people use it to alleviate the pain of soft tissue injuries, like ankle sprains.
Cryotherapy Sounds Cool, But There’s No Scientific Evidence Which Supports That It Works
One study by Tricia Hubbard and Craig Denegar was a study of studies, and it found unreliable evidence to support cryotherapy’s effectiveness (at best). They identified 55 articles claiming that cryotherapy worked for the patients involved, but only 22 were eligible for study because subjects were randomly assigned and the study’s conditions were clinically controlled. Both those criteria help assert the reliability of the study’s results.
Briefly, the PEDro scale was used to study the methodological quality of these studies. It’s been proven by researchers to be a reliable scale for doing so. If you’re interested, you can look at all the criteria the scale evaluates, and what the scale looks for in each criterion here.
You can score from 0 to 10, with 10 being the best possible score. The study by Hubbard and Denegar found an average score of 3.4 on the 22 articles evaluated. You don’t have to be an experienced researched to understand that’s low.
Articles evaluated featured a wide range of injuries. Just five studies gave adequate information on the subjects’ baseline data. No studies kept therapists blind from the subjects they treated. Just one blinded subjects. Keeping both therapists and subjects blind (not knowing information about the study to reduce bias and increase objective measurement of results) needs to happen to have reliable study results.
Does Cryotherapy Work? At This Point, It’s Not Clear
Right now, you’ll hear celebrities and superstar athletes trumpeting the benefits of cryotherapy. But there’s no proof it works.
Who knows? They might be getting paid by the clinics who offer the services. When you think about it, cryotherapy seems cool. It’s new and different. That kind of thing sells.
But just know that at this point, research doesn’t conclusively support that it works.
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