The term "Cryotherapy" derives from the Greek cryo meaning cold, and therapy meaning cure. With evidence of its use as early as the seventeenth century, it involves the use of low temperatures in medical therapy - either locally or generally (whole-body or partial-body). It is most commonly used (Cryosurgery) in the removal of benign and malignant lesions (warts, moles, skin tags and solar keratoses), using liquid nitrogen- a fast and painless procedure carried out by a medical practitioner on an out-patient basis.
The medical advantages of cryotherapy include:
When used in surgery it is known as cryosurgery. Other therapies that use the term are whole-body cryotherapy, partial body cryotherapy, and ice pack therapy.
As a body treatment it is favoured by athletes for aiding the recovery of sore muscles, and for generally promoting a sense of physical well-being. More recently it has also gained attention as a facial rejuvenation treatment, used by a number of Hollywood celebrities, as well as a treatment for aiding weight loss.
Whole/Partial body cryotherapy - WHAT TO EXPECT
A number of clinics in Ireland now offer body Cryotherapy that involves entering a Cryotherapy "chamber" which you stand into, undressed (men usually wear shorts, and women their underwear), up to around shoulder height. The body is then exposed to extremely cold temperatures for 2-4 minutes. You can usually purchase a one-off treatment but people tend to buy a course of several, which works out better value too.
The treatment has received some negative attention due to the sudden death of a woman following exposure in a Cryotherapy chamber. The argument is made that if the cold temperatures are produced by evaporating liquid nitrogen, there is the risk of gas asphyxiation as well as frostbite.