What is cryotherapy ?

What is cryotherapy ?

Cryotherapy, sometimes known as cold therapy, is a treatment used mainly in sports medicine to aid physical recuperation and for the treatment of aches and pains.

This ancient treatment goes back as far as Hippocrates (490-370 BCE). He himself used freezing water to treat localised pain and inflamation.


Cold has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects which can help with aches and pains which result from physical activity.

Cryotherapy is very efficient when dealing with injuries, thermal shock lowers skin temperature from 35° to 12°C, without ever going below 7° which could have irreversible consequences.

Cold can stem bleeding and swelling after trauma by constricting the blood vessels, slowing the metabolic rate of cells therefore reducing metabolic waste, aches and pains.

Cryotherapy stimulates the immune system and encourages the release of endorphins which allow for perfect preparation and recuperation when doing a strenuous work out.

Thanks to the way it works on the nervous system it also allows for the treatment of insomnia, as well as reducing fatigue, stress and creating a sense of well-being.


Also known as cold hydrotherapy, this treatment is used by high-level athletes to improve physical recovery times and micro-tears caused by intensive training.

This treatment relies on two mechanisms :

  • The effects of water pressure (immersion)
  • The effects of cold water (cryotherapy)

The treatment involves either partial or total immersion in a bath with a water temperature of less than 15 °C for a period of between 10 and 15 minutes (maximum).


  1. Immersion in cold water at 10°C
  2. The water will compress the body via “hydrostatic pressure” (the deeper the immersion the higher the pressure)
  3. That pressure causes metabolic waste to start moving round the body, reducing swelling and acting on the nerve endings to reduce pain in the mscles and the nerves.
  4. Lowing the body temperature works on the central nervous system, reducing the sensation of pain and fatigue.
  5. The body has to work to maintain an even internal temperature, which enables vasoconstriction (a tightening of the blood vessels) and helps with the elimination of waste.
  6. This in turn reduces the metabolic reaction of cells which serves to limit any swelling.


Physical recovery is by far the most recognised benefit of cold water therapy, but treatment is much wider than that it can help treat:

  • Inflammatory rheumatism affecting the joints and spine.
  • Degenerative rheumatism affecting joints and spine.
  • Joint pain.
  • Chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia
  • Problems maintaining muscle tone caused by cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other disorders where muscles are prone to contract.
  • Psoriasis .
  • Neurodermatitis.
  • Bruising, strains, post-operative recovery on joints and the spine and lesions or sores.
  • The process also works to optimise sporting performance and get the best from any medical rehabilitation.


As with all cold therapy there are contraindications, particularly for those suffering from any heart problems, Raynaud’s syndrome or a general intolerance to low temperature.