Arthritis is a painful degenerative disorder that affects an estimated 54.4 million American adults. Of those, 23.7 million people report that their symptoms are severe enough to interfere with their ability to live a normal life.
Medication and exercise are helpful, but many people seek alternative treatments to help manage their symptoms. One of these treatments, known as cryotherapy, can help relieve the muscle and joint pain associated with arthritis.
If you’re suffering from this condition and are looking for relief, read on to learn about cryotherapy for arthritis and how it can help.
What Is Cryotherapy?
Cold treatments and ice baths have been standard injury treatments for years. Athletes often jump in a tub of ice water after a game or strenuous workout, and most doctors recommend using the RICE method (rest, ice, compress, and elevate) to treat small injuries. Using cold as a treatment can reduce pain and swelling and speed up the healing process.
Developed by a Japanese physician in 1978, cryotherapy builds on this principle by using hyper-cooled air instead of ice. Unlike sports treatments that focus on one body part at a time, cryotherapy for knee pain or shoulder pain doesn’t stop at just that one joint or injury. Cryotherapy cools the entire body at once, making it effective at treating both localized injuries and diffuse conditions like arthritis.
What Is a “Freeze Therapy” Session Like?
If you’ve never experienced cryotherapy before, it’s difficult to imagine what a session is like.
Cryotherapy arthritis treatments take place in a specialized padded chamber that fills with cold air. The air isn’t normal room air—it’s liquid nitrogen that turns into a gas. The liquid nitrogen never sprays onto your skin directly, but instead gently fills the chamber, dropping the temperature far below freezing almost instantly.
If you’re familiar with ice baths, you might expect a cryotherapy session to be painful—but that isn’t the case. Not only are traditional ice baths uncomfortable overall, but keeping your skin in direct contact with ice can also cause damage to skin cells, resulting in burning pain. Because it uses dry hyper-cooled air instead of liquid, a cryotherapy chamber can get down to as low as -240 degrees F without causing harm.
Even though you’ll only spend a total of 2-3 minutes inside the chamber, the effects will last quite a while. Cryotherapy treatments have a cumulative effect, so you may not notice a huge change after your first time. The more you go, the more improvement you’ll notice.
Cryotherapy as Arthritis Treatment
Cryotherapy is a highly effective treatment for muscle and joint pain. This makes it the perfect remedy for people suffering from arthritis. Rather than targeting one joint at a time, it offers whole-body relief.
Cryotherapy works by shocking your body into thinking it’s freezing. This stimulates a semi-hypothermic response. Your heart rate will drop, your breathing will slow down, and your body will redirect its energy toward keeping your core temperature up.
Along with this, it also increases the rate of blood flow. The combination of these effects speeds up your body’s natural healing mechanisms.
This process removes toxins stored in the joints and flushes them out into the bloodstream. Your liver and kidneys can then finish the job and filter them out of your body, reducing inflammation.
Does Cryotherapy Help Arthritis-Related Conditions?
For many people with arthritis, joint pain isn’t their only concern. Other related conditions, like inflammation, neuralgia, and autoimmune complications, can also cause pain and discomfort. Here’s how cryotherapy can help with some of the less talked about aspects of arthritis.
Does Cryotherapy Help Inflammation?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Swelling in and around the joints is a problem that many people with arthritis face. Left untreated, this swelling can decrease range of motion and make it harder to perform tasks.
Cryotherapy decreases this inflammation by activating your lymphatic system. The cold temperatures make your lymphatic ducts contract, pumping lymph through your body and flushing out toxins and cellular waste.
At the same time, your blood vessels dilate, allowing more white blood cells to reach the area. They’ll destroy any dangerous substances in the lymph and calm your body’s inflammatory response.
Is Cryotherapy Good for Autoimmune Diseases?
While osteoarthritis is a result of bone and connective tissue degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. In this condition, the body’s cells attack joints and connective tissue as if they were pathogens.
Research shows that cryotherapy decreases the temperature inside your joints. This suppresses many of the factors that lead to joint destruction and inflammation.
These same factors, including cytokines and harmful enzymes, are responsible for damage in a lot of autoimmune conditions. As such, cryotherapy can also be beneficial for other chronic diseases that cause pain like fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
Can Cryotherapy Help Nerve Pain?
For many people with arthritis, peripheral neuropathy is a daily struggle. This condition leads to numbness, tingling, and pain in the extremities due to damaged and irritated nerve endings.
Using ice on these already sensitive areas can make the discomfort even worse. Cryotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis can help alleviate some of this discomfort without the pain of icing.
Who Should Not Use Cryotherapy?
While cryotherapy is perfectly safe for the majority of people, some should avoid it. These include people with the following conditions:
- Raynaud’s syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Chest pains, recent heart attack, or irregular heart rhythm
- Cold allergy
- Blood clots or stroke, current or past
- Lung conditions that are aggravated by cold
You should also avoid this treatment if you are or think you might be pregnant, though it’s safe after giving birth. As always before beginning any new medical treatment, talk with a doctor ahead of time to make sure you’re qualified.
Are You Ready to Try Cryotherapy for Arthritis?
If you’re tired of dealing with the pain, weakness, and loss of ability that comes along with arthritis, it’s time to do something about it. Cryotherapy for arthritis is an effective, low-risk investment that can help you get back to living life to the fullest.
Ready to give this revolutionary treatment a try? Cryotherapy Indy is a great place to start. Our experienced team takes a whole-body approach to wellness, combining cryotherapy with other modalities like infrared and floatation therapy.
Contact us online or give us a call today. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have and help you book your first appointment.