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There's a fad going around, especially in the NBA to use "Cryotherapy" to reduce healing time and relieve pain and fatigue. The patient is placed in a chamber, which is lowered to -166 degrees Celsius (107 Kelvin), for about five minutes. There are many reported benefits, but I haven't been able to find anything to legitimize the treatment beyond anecdotes from players, coaches, and company representatives, nor have I found any skeptical debunking.

Is cryotherapy an accepted, evidence-based, medical modality, an unproven possibility, a pipe dream, or a fraud?

  • I think whether this is better than an ice bath is a better question, cooling has already been shown to help in many cases. – Ryathal May 3 '12 at 14:59
  • Note that the word "cryotherapy" has long been applied o such proven techniques as icing a sprain. – dmckee May 3 '12 at 15:33
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    The word Cryotherapy (aka Cryosurgery) is primarily a medical term that refers to the process of freezing off warts, skin tags, and similar afflictions. I suggest a title edit to disambiguate. It's also loosely used to refer to any of a number of valid medical treatments that reduce body temperature locally or globally. – Alain May 3 '12 at 15:51
  • @Alain, is that okay now? – Oddthinking May 5 '12 at 3:19
  • @Oddthinking Looks good to me :) – Alain May 5 '12 at 17:52
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Here are a couple of studies for you from Europe:

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the influence of whole body cryostimulation on aerobic and anaerobic capacities.
[...]
Conclusions: It can be concluded that whole body cryostimulation can be beneficial, at least in males, for increasing anaerobic capacity in sport disciplines involving speed and strength.

Influence of the ten sessions of the whole body cryostimulation on aerobic and anaerobic capacity by Andrzej T. Klimek et al.

In all testing sessions, the simulated 48 min trail run induced a similar, significant amount of muscle damage. Maximal muscle strength and perceived sensations were recovered after the first WBC session (post 1 h), while recovery took 24 h with FIR, and was not attained through the PAS recovery modality. No differences in plasma CK activity were recorded between conditions. Three WBC sessions performed within the 48 hours after a damaging running exercise accelerate recovery from EIMD to a greater extent than FIR or PAS modalities.

Effects of whole-body cryotherapy vs. far-infrared vs. passive modalities on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in highly-trained runners by Christophe Hausswirth et al.

There are several other good ones showing benefits.

  • Acronym buster: WBC: Whole body cryotherapy, FIR: Far Infra-Red, PAS: Passive recovery (control), CK:plasma creatine kinase, EIMD: Exercise-induced muscle damage – jozzas May 7 '12 at 23:59

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