Cryotherapy vs ice bath
In the past years, “temperature-based” therapies have become quite popular in the health and wellness industry. From infrared saunas to cold plunges, people have been trying and enjoying the results of many treatments.
Whole body cryotherapy and ice baths are both popular methods for reducing inflammation and promoting recovery after exercise or injury. Both are used to reduce inflammation, relieve muscle soreness, and promote recovery after intense physical activity. However, there are some key differences between the two, which we will talk about in this article, so keep reading to learn more about these methods!
What are ice baths?
From the two methods mentioned, probably this one is easier to know how it works only by its name. And, even if you have never heard of it, the truth is that its name explains the procedure perfectly. And, although this procedure is becoming more and more popular now, many athletes have been using it for years now to improve their recovery process and reduce inflammation.
Ice baths are a type of cold therapy where a person submerges their body in a tub or pool filled with water and ice. The temperature of the water is typically around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit), which is much colder than normal body temperature.
The length of time for an ice bath can vary depending on each individual and their specific goals. Generally, ice baths are recommended to last between 5 and 20 minutes, with some people opting for shorter or longer periods. Probably, the moment when you start, the session will be a bit shorter since it’s the first time you try it and your body is not used to it. Around 1 to 5 min would be the goal at the beginning and then you can make your way up to 15 to 20 min, it may also depend on the actual temperature of the bath and how your body can cope with it.
What is cryotherapy?
On the other hand, cryotherapy is another type of cold therapy that involves exposing the body to even colder temperatures than ice baths for a short period of time. It typically lasts between 2 to 4 minutes, no longer than that since the temperature is extremely low. Although this might seem like a very short period of time, is enough time to achieve the desired therapeutic effects without putting the body at risk of hypothermia or other adverse reactions. It's important to follow the recommended duration of cryotherapy sessions and listen to your body to avoid any potential harm.
This therapy can be delivered through various methods. The most common one is whole body cryotherapy, which involves standing in a chamber filled with liquid nitrogen vapor that cools the air to temperatures below -120°C (-248°F). But one can also find localized cryotherapy, where a small area of the body is treated with a device that releases cold gas or liquid.
What are the differences between cryotherapy and ice baths?
Now that we know a bit more about both methods, we will explain the main differences and what one can expect from using these therapies.
Cryotherapy typically involves the use of liquid nitrogen or another cooling agent to create a very cold environment. Cryotherapy can be for the whole body or for different areas. This can be done in a specialized cryotherapy chamber or with a handheld device that directs the cold air at specific areas of the body. This method is often used to reduce inflammation, speed up recovery time, and relieve pain.
On the other hand, ice baths involve immersing the body in cold water, as the name mentions. The idea behind ice baths is similar to that of cryotherapy—the cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing inflammation and swelling. Additionally, the cold water can help to numb sore or painful areas, providing temporary relief.
Both whole body cryotherapy and ice baths have been shown to be effective at reducing muscle soreness and promoting recovery after exercise.
One of the main differences between WBC and ice baths is the way they affect the body's temperature. During WBC, the air temperature is much colder than the body's internal temperature, which causes the body to go into survival mode and constrict blood vessels. This helps to reduce inflammation and pain. In contrast, an ice bath can cause the body to go into shock, which can lead to hypothermia if not done correctly. However, both WBC and ice baths can cause the release of endorphins, which can help to relieve pain and promote a sense of well-being.
Another difference between cryotherapy and ice baths is the way they affect the body's metabolism. Cryotherapy has been shown to increase metabolism, which can help with weight loss and improve energy levels. Ice baths, on the other hand, can slow down metabolism, which can be beneficial for athletes who need to recover from intense physical activity.
Overall, both cryotherapy and ice baths can be effective in reducing inflammation and promoting recovery after physical activity. Since the idea behind both methods is so similar, the preference for one or the other mostly depends on each person and how their bodies react to these therapies.
Some people argue that cryotherapy may be a better option for those who want to avoid the shock and potential risks associated with ice baths. During cryotherapy, you are under constant supervision to check how you are feeling and reacting to the cold temperatures.
Ice baths may are a more holistic therapy while being effective as well. It may be more beneficial for athletes who need to recover quickly and improve their performance. Ice baths can also work on a deeper level because the cold water covers more of the body and can lead to a greater overall reduction in body temperature.
You can always consult a healthcare professional before trying either method to check everything will be fine for you.
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