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Cryotherapy vs. Ice Baths

Ice baths are trending. They’re an alternative option if you do not have access to Whole Body Cryotherapy. If you want the safest and most effective cold therapy to heal your body, Whole Body Cryotherapy, using liquid nitrogen, is a better choice.

Cryotherapy vs. Ice Bath

Whole Body Cryotherapy and ice baths have similar benefits, however, there is a difference in effectiveness and comfort. When compared to ice baths, Whole Body Cryotherapy is dry, faster, safer, and the temperature is adjustable.


Whole Body Cryotherapy is 3 minutes of cold air circulating around the entire body and monitored by a cryotherapy technician. The time and temperature in the cryosauna are exact, to guarantee the body’s systems can respond effectively. 


The length of the time someone should spend in an ice bath is debatable. It could be 8 to 20 minutes, which is a big difference. There’s a lot of factors that can affect ice baths, which make it difficult to know how long is safe and effective for the body.


The body’s response to cold temperature for a longer period, such as in an ice bath, is different than cryotherapy. During an ice bath, the body expends a lot of energy to return the blood in the body’s core to a normal temperature. This can lead to unnecessary muscle tension and freezing, and in extreme cases hypothermia and death.


During a Whole Body Cryotherapy session, the thermoreceptors in the body sense the cold temperature and immediately signal the brain to constrict the blood vessels, which allows the uptake of oxygen and nutrients to the vital organs. After 3 minutes, the body is immediately returned to a normal temperature. The brain signals to return highly oxygenated blood back to the extremities with a better supply of nutrients allowing the cells to regenerate and operate more efficiently.


 Ice baths may take 30 minutes or more to achieve the desired effects, while a Whole Body Cryotherapy sessions takes only 3 minutes. After a Cryotherapy session, you can immediately return to all activities, you can also do a second Cryotherapy session on the same day. Unlike Whole Body Cryotherapy, it is not recommended to return to activity immediately after an ice bath.


Whole Body Cryotherapy is a dry treatment that uses liquid nitrogen vapor to instantly stimulate the skin cells to react to the cold. This initial reaction on the skin signals the internal reactions within the body without absorbing any fluid or moisture. Ice baths require soaking the body in water for a longer period to get an internal response, which can damage the skin. Icy cold water on the skin for a length of time can cause sensitivity, redness, irritation, stabbing, and burning pain. Rather than causing skin irritation or discomfort, the cool nitrogen vapor during a Whole Body Cryotherapy session, stimulates skin cells causing the skin to be more nourished and oxygenated, for a healthier, and revitalized appearance.


One of the key differences between Whole Body Cryotherapy and ice baths is the temperature. Depending on the temperature and time in an ice bath, soft tissue and muscle can begin to freeze and lose their ability after 20 minutes. Whole Body Cryotherapy requires a maximum of 3 minutes, and it uses dry nitrogen vapor to reduce the temperature of the skin, but it doesn’t freeze any muscle or soft tissue, it’s just the perception of freezing by the body’s nervous system.


The temperature during a Whole Body Cryotherapy session is also adjustable based on body composition, the symptoms being treated, health concerns, lifestyle, and previous cold therapy experience.


Whole Body Cryotherapy is very controllable, precise, and adjustable for someone’s needs. Not to mention, Cryotherapy is more enjoyable than any type of whole-body cold therapy and it can be performed more than once per day.


Ice baths are impossible to regulate, as there are many factors that can fluctuate throughout the entire process. There is no way to accurately control the temperature of an ice bath for the length of time that is needed for it to be effective, therefore utilizing the proper temperature for your body composition and the symptoms you are treating is impossible. Ice baths can overexpose portions or the entire body to dangerous situations since there is not an accurate way to monitor and maintain the best temperature or the effects it has on the body systems, and the internal body responses. Since ice baths involve water and ice on the skin, the cold penetrates the skin much differently than cold nitrogen vapor, so the warmup process takes longer, and internal healing process can potentially be less effective.


Each person is different. What’s going on internally in each person’s body is different, each ice bath is different, and how someone responds to being submerged into icy water varies.


·      Is the plunge tub outdoor or indoor?’

·      What is the plunge tub made from? (plastic, enamel, tin, etc.)

·      Is the level of submersion effective? (Lower legs, whole leg, chest, shoulders, etc.)

·      What is the ideal water temperature?

·      How much does the water temperature change with body heat?

·      How long can cold water maintain an effective temperature once a warm body is submerged for a period?

Determining these factors may require a lot of time experimenting, and the uncomfortable conditions may compromise the effectiveness on the body, causing more stress rather than promoting healing effects.


Therefore, Whole Body Cryotherapy is the greatest and safest form of cold therapy to treat the entire body and to achieve maximum benefits.

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