Is Cryotherapy hurting your gains?

  • Sit in a cold water tank or cryotherapy chamber (cold air chamber) soon after exhaustive or muscle damaging exercise and you can decrease delayed onset muscle soreness for 2 days after cooling. Also, your next bout of exercise within 24 hours may also not feel as tough. Mean temperature used in research studies on cryotherapy: 50ºF (range 41 – 55ºF).
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    How does cold therapy (either cryotherapy or cold water immersion) work? The prevailing theory is that cold constricts your blood vessels which decreases bllod flow and inflammation. But, decreasing inflammation can be a bad thing.

    Acute Inflammation has a purpose. It is needed to signal “damage” so your immune system can come clear out old damaged tissue and replace it with new healthy stronger tissue. Decrease inflammation too much and you will delay tissue healing. If you consistently use cold water tanks or cryotherapy chambers after exercise, your muscles may not adapt (you might not get the strength gains 💪 you’re looking for) and you may also delay tendon and ligament healing (due to delayed collagen synthesis).
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    A study examining cold water immersion vs. active recovery found 10 minutes of cold water immersion twice a week for 12 weeks after training sessions blunted long term gains in muscle mass and strength.

    Local cryotherapy (focused on a specific area of the body) does not seem to improve delayed onset muscle soreness.

    When should you use cold water immersion or cryotherapy? After a marathon, ultra, triathlon or other major muscle damaging exercise. Cold water immersion and cryotherapy are good possible recovery modalities for those with long seasons and massive soreness after games – NFL players (not enough time to recover!), baseball pitchers and catchers, NBA players, soccer players, hockey players and others who experience major muscle soreness and little time to recover before they have to get back out there and play.

    PMID: 26413718
    PMID: 26725948
    PMID: 28141620
    PMID: 26174323
    Sport Sciences for Health volume 16, pages1–11(2020)2d

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