Cryotherapy/Cryosurgery- A great Medical Milestone.
There's a very interesting phenomenon i came across while i was writing my last post on Human head transplant. I mentioned cryotherapy but i didn't give a detailed explanation on it because that will require a complete post.We are going to discussing cryotherapy extensively today. This phenomenon has been in use in the medical and health field since the 1970's.
Cryotherapy is the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy.Cryotherapy is used to treat a variety of benign and malignant tissue damage(lesions). The term cryo is a Greek word that means cold and therapy meaning cure or treatment.
Cryosurgery is the use of extreme cold in surgery to destroy abnormal or diseased tissues. Liquid nitrogen is usually used to freeze the tissues at the cellular level.
So any use of ice or very cold materials to treat something technically qualifies as cryotherapy. The most long-standing and common form of “cryotherapy” is the application of ice or cold packs to injuries to cause blood vessels to constrict, which reduces blood flow and alleviates pain, swelling and inflammation.
After the development of vaccum flask in 1940 to store sub zero liquid elements like nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen,cryotherapy dramatically increased in its usage.
A lot of sports stars these days are really into cryotherapy because they claim that Whole Body Cryotherapy can speed recovery, reduce pain, increase energy and improve sleep. Beauty salons and spas claim it burns calories, improve our skin and eventually improve our moods and make us happier. But are these claims based on any sound scientific evidence?
Cryotherapy isn't only used for beauty and pleasure, it is also used for serious medical purposes like killing cancer cells, freezing warts and slowing metabolic processes during trauma surgery.
What is the Mechanism of Cryotherapy?
The way cryotherapy acts is divided into three phases:
- Heat transfer
- Cell Injury
Cryotherapy destroys targeted cells by quickly transferring heat from the skin to a heat sink. Liquid nitrogen has a boiling point of -196°c. The rate at which the heat is transferred totally depends on the heat temperature difference between the skin and the liquid nitrogen. If the liquid nitrogen is applied directly on the skin and evaporation(boiling heat transfer) occurs, this results in liquid nitrogen evaporating(boiling) almost immediately, leading to a destructionof the targeted cells.
This occurs after the cell is frozen.Rapid freezing maximise tissue damage to epithelicial cells and is most suitable for the treatment of malignancies. Freeze damage can be noticed in everyday life when a steak is defrosted from the freezer. The steak juices that are seen represents the intracellular liquid that has escaped because of the damage to the cell wall.
This is the last response to cryotherapy. Thorough cryotherapy causes basement membrane separation which may result in blister formation.
Medical Uses of Cryotherapy
Treatment of Cancer:Cryotherapy is used to treat localised areas of some forms of cancer. Extreme cold temperature is used to destroy cancer cells (this is part of cryosurgery).The doctor practically freezes the cancer cells to kill them. This is done by inserting a small probe(called cryoprobe) very close to the area that has the cancerous cells and then passing liquid nitrogen through the probe to the cancerous area. Thereby freezing and killing the cell. After the treatment, the body's immune system gets rid of the dead tissue over a few weeks. However, this hasn't been confirmed to be a long term cure for cancer.
Treatment for nerve ailments: Cryotherapy can also be used to treat conditions that involve irritation of an isolated nerve. Examples are nerve irritation between the ribs (intercostal neuralgia), cluneal nerve entrapment, lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment and many other forms of nerve entrapment.
Importance in surgery: Cryotherapy is a very important part of lots of different types of surgery, especially if it involves any form of organ transplant. Very cold temperature are used to reduce the metabolism of the organ to be operated on, thereby reducing the organ's need for oxygen to the barest minimum and keeping the organ healthy even if it's not getting any oxygen.
Other Medical Uses of Cryotherapy are:
In treatment of warts, moles, skin tags, solar keratoses, Morton's neuroma and small skin cancers.Several internal disorders are also treated with cryosurgery, including liver cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, oral cancers, cervical disorders and, more commonly in the past, hemorrhoids. Soft tissue conditions such as plantar fasciitis (jogger's heel) and fibroma (benign excrescence of connective tissue) can be treated with cryosurgery.
Are there really any Other benefits of whole body Cryotherapy(WBC)?
Does WBC help you loose weight, reduce pain, improve athletic performance,improve sleep and slow aging as claimed by a lot of WBC promoters?
WBC is basically standing in a deep freezing tank for several minutes. Sometimes, the tank can be as cold as -200°f. The patient wears minimal clothing and is bathed with refrigerated cold air or liquid nitrogen.
There is currently no scientific proof to support the claims that WBC is effective as a weight loss or obesity prevention measure. A lot of athletes and health professionals have used WBC to relieve pain and and improve the healing rate of arthritis, fibromyalgia and injuries.However, a recent review dis not find compelling scientific evidence that WBC is effectively against muscle soreness after exercise.
Some of the beauty claims( slow aging ) is actually true.The decrease of temperature causes decrease in inflammation; A decrease in inflammation can help with a lot of inflammatory problems or skin issues. This is however not a long term effect.
Cryotherapy can actually improve your mood and make you feel better.The theory behind it is that it releases endorphins and your natural adrenaline, and it gets your blood flowing throughout your body, which is something that can be helpful for people who are experiencing anxiety and depression.But I'm not sure this is a long term effect.
Apart from the awesome uses of Cryotherapy in serious health issues, there is mostly no reasonable scientific explanation for the other beauty and pleasurable uses. A lot of athletes have claimed to notice improvement on their sores and muscle pain after a cryotherapy session; and some other people have also noticed a potential immune system boost, increased energy and metabolism and a general improvement in one's mood. Even though all these are not really scientifically proven, I think this should be something anyone who can afford it should try out as there are a lot of great reviews.Although i think most of the benefits are not totally dependent on cryotherapy as there might be some other underlying contributing factors to some of the positive results.
Cryotherapy is definitely going to be added to my very long bucket list!
Thanks for reading!
All image sources are stated in text.
Until my next Post,