No longer just for professional athletes and those recovering from injury – cryotherapy is the new spa sensation being praised for its beauty boosting, anti-aging and wellbeing benefits. Cryotherapy got the celebrity seal of approval last week when pop princess and actress Mandy Moore posted photos on Instagram of her and a pal hitting the deep-freeze at a spa in LA.

The caption read: “She may not be a convert YET but @minkak got through her first cryotherapy session like a baller! ”

The cryotherapy craze has seen cryochambers popping up around the UK and cryotherapy based facials and weight loss treatments being added to spa treatment lists.

What is cryotherapy?

The Welsh rugby team have been fans for a while now, first using whole body cryotherapy after training sessions in the run-up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but whole body cryotherapy originated in Japan in 1978 where it is used to boost immunity in winter. The name cryotherapy comes from the Greek words cryo [cold] and therapy [cure]. The basic principle behind cryotherapy is that extreme cold reduces pain and inflammation, with patients stepping into a cryochamber [fancy name for an ice box] with temperatures of -110˚C. Sessions last around 3 minutes and patients wear a mere swimsuit accessorised with gloves, socks and ski mask.

What can cryotherapy treat?

Cryotherapy is commonly used to treat chronic pain, soothe sore muscles, heal nerve damage and boost physical performance among athletes. It has been recommended for arthritis, rheumatism and management of multiple sclerosis and skin conditions such as psoriasis. It can also been used to treat depression, stress and anxiety. In aesthetic clinics the term cryotherapy can also refer to the use of liquid nitrogen to remove warts and skin imperfections.

How does it work?

Whole body cryotherapy numbs the body, acting as an analgesic and reducing inflammation. The freezing temperatures and sharp shock to the system stimulates immune response and increases blood circulation – flushing out toxins and releasing anti-inflammatory molecules. On a psychological level the endorphin-rush caused by the shock leaves patients ‘on a high’ which accounts for the therapy’s mood boosting and stress reducing after effects. A range of research has been conducted around these applications of cryotherapy and there is evidence to support the positive effects of treatments on pain reduction and post-sport recovery.

Fat freezing?

Recently there has been an emergence of cryotherapy based weight loss treatments such as cryotherapy body wraps which use cryo-lotion and bandaging to lower the bodies temperature. It is claimed that as the body warms itself fat is broken down and calories are burned. The detoxifying effect of the treatment is said to reduce cellulite. Another similar treatment, cryogenic liposis is being marketed as a non-surgical alternative to liposuction and uses a cryolipolysis machine to cool a targeted area whilst applying a powerful vacuum. Cryotherapy based facials are another new beauty trend which reportedly reduce pores, fine lines and dark spots. Research backing up these claims is limited.

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