Are cryotherapy chambers a miracle cure for runner’s fatigue?

Cryotherapy chambers are designed to remove heat and inflammation from the body, but are they really a miracle cure for runner’s fatigue?

The solo chambers, about the size of a small shower cubicle, encapsulate runners and athletes from the neck down. Originating in Europe and designed for medical purposes, they use dry ice to send temperatures plummeting as low as -170 degrees Celsius.

The goal is to decrease cellular metabolism, increase cellular survival, decrease inflammation, decrease pain and spasm, promote vasoconstriction, and when using extreme temperatures, to destroy cells by crystallizing the cytosol. And the theory is that extreme temperature forces blood to rush to the core, boosting oxygen levels, therefore reducing muscle soreness and fatigue.

Rugby World Cup teams such as England, Wales and Georgia in the US are using whole-body cryotherapy to speed muscle recovery.

However a review by researchers Cochrane Collaboration investigated whether whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) was superior in reducing muscle soreness and improved recovery. They concluded that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether WBC reduces self-reported muscle soreness or improves subjective recovery after exercise when compared with passive rest or no WBC.

“None of the studies reported active surveillance of predefined adverse events,” said Dr Minett. “The lack of evidence on adverse effects on the athletes is concerning because exposure to extreme temperature presents a potential hazard. Until there is definitive evidence that WBC lives up to its claims, it might just be an expensive, uncomfortable fad.”

To read the full Cochrane report click here

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