Are Cryotherapy Chambers better than an Ice Bath? (C-5)

Are Cryotherapy Chambers better than an Ice Bath? (C-5)

Are You Sure You Want to Do This?


Before I get into the particulars, being human, we look for the path of least resistance. And when it comes to ice baths over a cryotherapy chamber, you are hit with one massive obstacle…

Ice baths are tough. Ice baths are painful.

Though ice baths have amazing benefits and I love the benefits I personally get from them, lets not ignore the fact that to get into a regular habit, is going to take some serious effort on your part.

Whereas a cryotherapy chamber, aside from your initial session, where perhaps the fear of the unknown for some, may be a bit concerning, this quickly disappears once you’ve experienced just one cryotherapy session, as you realise it’s actually straightforward, easy, and something oddly to look forward to.

However, with an ice bath, every session, even for the experienced, requires mustering up a lot of “willpower”. This can be mentally exhausting. It produces a perception of freezing in the body’s nervous system, invoking a fight or flight response.

It Just Takes So Long…


Next is time, the time in a cryotherapy chamber is just 3 minutes, as opposed to time in an ice bath, which is around 15 minutes for maximum benefits, plus you got to dry yourself and come back round as your muscles will be weak when you first get out.

While on the topic of time, once a cryotherapy chamber is set up, you just turn it on and walk in, whereas with an ice bath, you need to prepare it, each and every time, which let’s face it, is painfully boring and tedious.

This requires lots of time to run the bath, then add in the ice. It’s not just plug-and-play. You will need around 50kg to 100kg (110lbs – 200lbs) of ice to get the desired temperature. That is a lot of ice! And where do you get all this ice from?

You Are Going to Need a Lorry Load for that Sir


It’s not just the ongoing cost of this fresh ice, as let’s be honest cryotherapy specialised cold air chambers are hardly cheap now, are they! However, for me it’s the hassle.

I keep my life as simple as possible, to focus on the things I enjoy and am good at in life, getting lorry loads of ice, doesn’t sound fun or appealing to me, every time I want to experience a cryotherapy session.

So even before we touch on the physiological benefits for you, there is a lot of thinking that needs to be done. Such as:

  • Do you have £30,000 plus, to invest in a cryotherapy chamber? This is then the easy option for those with the funds to invest, in their future health and longevity.
  • If you don’t have the funds, next ask yourself are you willing to fill up a bath for 30 minutes before you actually want to use it? Then go and get a large amount of ice, each time as well?

Which Gives You the Best Health Results?


Now we can look at why we are all wanting to put ourselves through all this! The health benefits. Cryotherapy and ice baths may sound similar but the two therapies have a few key differences.

A cryotherapy chamber is very different from an ice bath.  In a cold therapy chamber, dry extreme cold air exposure is used instead of cold water immersion, causing the body‘s cold sensors in the skin’s surface to respond, instead of the deeply penetrating cold of the ice bath.

In an ice bath, cold water causes the body to warm blood in its core, to transport to dilated vessels in outer tissue, forcing the body to overexert itself in preventing the skin’s surface from freezing. The effect being in a cold bath your body actually feels like it’s freezing, however, a cryotherapy chamber “tricks” the body into applying better healing mechanisms, without the penetrating cold.

The result is a more comfortable healing experience, where the total time your body is exposed to the extremely cold air, in the cryotherapy chamber is never more than 3 minutes.

The Ice Bath has been regularly used in professional sports for a long time, for recovery after intense training, think long-distance runners, and for the rehabilitation of athletes with injuries.

Your Muscles Freeze


During a typical 15 minutes of ice bathing, your muscle tissue can freeze, and frozen muscles temporarily lose capacity, hence why you need to be very careful when you first get out of an ice bath, as your muscles need time to return to normal.

This limits training ability, as regardless of the time of day when you had your ice bath, you need to leave any further training, to the next day. Though not a big issue, as most people use the ice bath after intense training, it’s something to be aware of.

A cryotherapy chamber does not actually freeze muscle tissue, it only creates the illusion to your body, that the muscles are frozen (or at least extremely cold). This is handy if you want to recover and retrain multiple times in a day, as after only 10 minutes from your whole body cryotherapy treatment, you can continue to work out.

Going Down, Deeper and Down


Next, let’s consider how your body reacts to cryogenic temperatures (temperatures lower than -110 °C or -166°F) that are achieved in the cryotherapy chamber, as opposed to your body’s reaction to the cold temperatures that you are exposed to while submerged in an ice bath.

The big difference lies in the fact that you are gradually cooled in an ice bath. This changes your body’s response, which is to try and warm as much blood as possible in its core, to then send it out to the peripheral parts, in order to maintain a warm skin surface. As while you are in an ice bath, your body is struggling with the actual continuous and highly penetrating cold and not just signals from skin cold sensors as with partial body cryotherapy treatments.

As this process continues, with your body trying to make enough heat in order to maintain warmth in your peripheral body parts, the muscles start to congeal and freeze, beginning at the skin surface and continuing inward to your body’s core.

Why Are you Doing This to Me?


Compare this against the signal sent from your skin to your brain about your “life-threatening” environment, when in the -110°C temperatures of a cryotherapy chamber. This is so powerful, that your brain understands immediately that there is no way to keep the peripheral parts of your body warm.

In order to adapt to this critical situation, your blood vessels and capillaries undergo severe vasoconstriction, to keep your body’s core skin temperature from dropping, this, in turn, triggers the processes described above – enrichment of your blood and sending it to your internal organs under higher blood pressure. This doesn’t happen when you are in an ice bath.

Lastly, while you are in an ice bath, your oxygen supply to the surface of your skin is interrupted. This can cause skin disease.

Neither is Best…


In a nutshell, neither is better, it completely comes down to what you want and your budget.

Me personally, I would and do have a cryotherapy chamber, however, if I couldn’t afford a cryotherapy chamber, then an ice bath would make a great addition to my home longevity spa.

To combat the annoyance of needing a lorry load of ice, each time I want an ice therapy, I would buy an industrial ice machine, as I couldn’t cope with having to buy 50kg each time I wanted to use it.

Alternatively, I would keep it outside in the shade, which though wouldn’t get me to the near-freezing temperatures, it would at least get me down to around 15°C/60°F, which would still give me huge health benefits.

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