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Whole body cryotherapy (WBC) has become very popular over the last few years. Celebrities and professional athletes are using this treatment for muscle recovery, to improve performance, to decrease soreness and even to help speed up metabolism for weight loss. Some celebrities and athletes who have been known to use cryotherapy are Actress Jennifer Aniston, Basketball Player Lebron James, Actor Daniel Craig and Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Cryotherapy is defined as “super-cooling” of the body for therapeutic purposes. Cryotherapy can include the use of products such as ice packs on a localized portion of the body, such as the lower back. Whole Body Cryotherapy is the use of a short but intense exposure to cold that triggers the body’s natural healing process. It involves exposing the entire body to temperatures colder than -200 degrees F.
Whole body cryotherapy was originally developed in Japan in 1978 by Dr. Yamaguchi and the benefits have been studied and refined in Europe since that time. Whole body cryotherapy was originally developed for the treatment of inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Yamaguchi found he could significantly reduce the soreness and pain his patients felt during manipulation of their joints, because the rapid decrease of temperature of the outer layer of skin led to the immediate release of endorphins and therefore less sensitivity to pain. His research led to the exposure of the entire body to these extreme temperatures with the development of cryogenic chambers. Further research in Europe and in Soviet Russia revealed the benefit of Whole Body Cryotherapy on patients suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions and on elite athlete’s training programs.
During a WBC treatment you are enclosed in a relatively confined space for two to three minutes. A person stands alone in a can-like enclosure that is open at the top. Your entire body, except for your head, is enclosed in the device. Your head remains at room temperature. Your hands and feet are covered with gloves, shoes and socks respectively.
I recently made a trip to Subzero Cryotherapy in Wellington, Florida. Upon entering the studio I was greeted by Kim one of the owners. She gave me a tour which included a WBC treatment and a localized cryotherapy session. Prior to going into the whole body chamber, my blood pressure was taken and I was asked if I had any current health conditions or concerns. After I was cleared to go into the cryotherapy device, I was instructed to remove any jewelry and all of my clothing. I was then given insulated gloves for my hands and heavy socks and slippers for my feet. I stepped into the chamber and closed the door. The cryosauna was then turned on. Nitrogen gas begins to flow through the device lowering the surface temperature of my skin. My skin quickly became cold in about 30-45 seconds and then stayed at that temperature for the remaining 2 minutes and 30 seconds. By the final 20-30 seconds I was pretty darn cold but I was able to move around a bit in the chamber which helped. By the end of the treatment I felt energized and refreshed! My muscles and joints felt relatively pain free which seemed to last for the next 2-3 days. I was also given a spot treatment around my neck and TMJ area where I tend to get moderate soreness. Kim measured my skin temperature regularly to make sure it was not getting too cold. A hose like device with nitrogen was utilized (see pic below). Areas like the face, because there is less soft tissue and fat can become a lot cooler more quickly. My neck and jaw felt less sore immediately after and for about another 24-48 hours.
The theory is that during whole body cryotherapy, your skin reacts to the cold by sending messages to the brain that stimulates the body to go into survival mode by sending blood from your extremities to the core where the blood has higher amounts of oxygen, enzymes and nutrients. As the body re-warms, this nutrient rich blood is pushed back to the extremities. The idea is that the enriched blood promotes internal organ regeneration, detoxification, removal and elimination of damaged cells and decreases inflammation. Basically, this helps the body heal, rejuvenate and recover. A recent pilot study showed the substantial imbalance between human metabolism and thermolysis during WBC of which the explanation still remains an open question. The relationship between skin temperature and thermolysis heat losses during this period is still unknown and have not been studied in the context of the human body. Hopefully, there will be further studies showing this relationship and proving the benefits of WBC using evidence based medicine.
According to the FDA, the healing benefits of whole body cryotherapy are unconfirmed and the potential risks are apparent. Some risks include oxygen deficiency and hypoxia from the nitrogen vapors to a closed room leading to lose of consciousness. You may also run the risk of frostbite, burns and eye injury from the extreme temperatures. If you are going to try WBC or localized cryotherapy, please make sure that you go to a reputable establishment where the staff is well trained and qualified such as Subzero Cryotherapy in Wellington, Florida. Also, please check with your physician prior to any treatments. This is not meant for everyone and there are definitely possible risks associated with this type of treatment.
Cheers to Your Health!
Stem cell therapy is a blazing hot topic in orthopedic medicine. Stem cells offer the potential to improve joint pain in many disease states by helping the repair process. Stem cell therapy used to be cost-prohibitive for most people aside from athletes and celebrities. Now with improved and more affordable harvesting and processing systems, stem cell therapy is now within reach for millions of individuals.
The potential benefits are endless and patients across the country (and in my office) are seeing and feeling it for themselves. Stem cell therapy can be a way to avoid the pain, costs (insurance deductibles and co-pays, time away from work), and recovery time often associated with surgery. In other cases, stem cell therapy can be a useful adjunct to surgery to supercharge the tissue repair process at the time of procedures such as arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, ligament and nerve repair surgery just to name a few examples.
Stem cell therapy is often utilized as a simple in-office procedure. The stem cells are directly injected into the injured tissue site under ultrasound guidance. Patients walk out of the office with a band-aid and begin the recovery process right away. Return to light activities is immediate and return to exercise and sports such as golf and tennis can begin within a few days, as opposed to the weeks or months of downtime after surgery.
While there is no treatment with a 100% success rate, stem cell therapy offers patients the potential to avoid surgery, with a high rate of patient satisfaction and diminished joint pain. Stem cell therapy does not preclude the option to have definitive surgery at any time in the future if one's disease state and associated pain progress over time.
Stem cells can be ethically and safely obtained in several ways now. A patient's own stem cells can be harvested and concentrated from a needle blood draw from the hip's bone marrow or extracted from fat tissue, both in the office setting under local anesthesia to numb the area. Alternatively, stem cells can be harvested and processed from human placental tissue obtained at the time of scheduled cesarean sections with the full consent of the donor. In addition to stem cells, abundant growth factors are contained in these products to help attract your body's own reparative cells to the injured tissue site where the stem cell therapy is delivered.
There have been several promising studies demonstrating the potential benefits of stem cell therapy for many orthopedic conditions. This is an area of abundant ongoing research as it holds great promise for contributing to our progress in the area of joint restoration.
For more information on shoulder arthritis, stem cell injections and shoulder surgery head over to Dr. Michael Cohn's Blog and Website.
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Dr. Suzanne Fuchs has a passion for nutrition, health and fitness. She aims to connect the dots between our overall health and the substances that go into our bodies on a daily basis by using only evidence based medicine, science and expert advice.
Dr. Suzanne Fuchs currently practices concierge foot and ankle medicine and surgery in Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida at LuxePodiatry™
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