Cryotherapy for Mental Health: What You Should Know

Cryotherapy is an ever-growing popular method for workout recovery and pain relief. But it’s not just for the body’s health and happiness — it’s an exceptional treatment for the mind as well. Our mental and physical well-being go hand-in-hand, but cryotherapy is showing immense potential for mental health benefits. Read on to learn how it can help you feel more focused, relaxed, and motivated with cryotherapy for mental health! 

The Delight of an Icy Blast

For decades, people have noticed they tend to feel refreshed and alert after a cold shower. Challenges such as the “polar plunge” have been reported to produce unparalleled euphoria. And we all love that first bite of crisp winter air that seems to energize us to our core.

As it turns out, while humans are ill-suited to cold environments in general, a brief dose of iciness can do us a lot of good. Cold therapy has long been used to treat injuries. A cold compress restricts blood flow, reducing inflammation. When the compress is removed, the capillaries open back up, inviting a flood of healing nutrients. That rush of blood often causes a feeling of delight and elation — the same as our rosy cheeks as we played in the snow as kids. 

Cryotherapy takes these principles to a new level. 

How Cryotherapy Works

Cryotherapy is considerably colder than a snow day — about -200 to -300 degrees Fahrenheit. While that may sound painful, remember that our bodies are endothermic, meaning we’re constantly generating heat. Cryotherapy involves exposure to cold air, so there is no damage to your skin. 

Instead, the cold environment slows down your receptor nerves, effectively dulling pain. This alone can have a major benefit on both healing and mental health. Chronic pain is a common problem for athletes, as well as those with pain disorders. The brain continues to process signals from the peripheral nervous system as signs of alarm. This constant firing is warning our bodies of injury long after the threat has passed.

By contrast, when our brain learns to ignore those signals, we can enjoy a more painless existence. Cryotherapy essentially trains your brain to stop sounding the alarm.

The slowed blood flow also avoids the costly side effects of muscle recovery. When tissues are torn, even during exercise, your body must recruit both your immune system and protein reserves to recover. These processes can drain and damage nearby cells, causing Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Cryotherapy keeps those immune cells at bay, which actually encourages your tissues to knit back together with less “collateral damage.”

Of course, those extremely cold temperatures can only last a few minutes to avoid injury, but that’s more than enough time to stimulate your body’s healing response.

Resolving pain issues is already a huge boon to mental health, but cryotherapy packs a few specific cognitive benefits as well.

Cryotherapy’s Mental Health Benefits

Countless studies have linked inflammation to depression and anxiety. When our bodies are constantly fighting to restore homeostasis, our hormones go out of whack. More importantly, constant stress damages our cells and impairs our natural healing processes. While it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg dynamic, most doctors agree that resolving inflammation helps reduce stress and vice versa.

Cryotherapy, then, has great potential for treating stress disorders, including generalized anxiety, depression, and potentially PTSD and OCD. Studies have also found that cryotherapy promotes better sleep, which has been linked to better mental health. 

And don’t forget those feelings of euphoria. When the blood vessels constrict, then re-expand soon after, our organs are flooded with oxygen. This wakes up our bodies and minds, bringing in mood-boosting endorphins. Many people with mental illness struggle to experience positive feelings. Cryotherapy can be a way to re-train the mind to break free of depression patterns and release some powerful neurochemicals.

Finally, cryotherapy is a way of inducing sharp focus and mindfulness. By eliminating pain signals and boosting endorphins, it can stimulate healthful alpha brain waves — allowing us to take a much-needed break from stressful gamma and beta waves.

Most studies have focused on cryotherapy’s role as a supplement to other treatments. On that note, if you’re considering cryotherapy, don’t treat it as a panacea. It can be part of your overall toolkit for better mental health.

Cryotherapy for Mental Health at Icebox

Cryotherapy stimulates the body’s natural restorative processes while avoiding the strain of chronic pain and excessive immune activity. By constricting blood flow then inviting it back, it produces both cognitive and physiological phenomena that invite healing. Whether you’re seeking relief from mental illness or simply hoping to boost your mood and focus, cryotherapy can play a pivotal role in your treatment plan. 

Learn more and discover the incredible benefits of cryotherapy at Icebox.