Is whole-body cryotherapy effective and safe?

Ask the doctors

Q. A friend of mine recommended I try whole-body cryotherapy for arthritis pain. Is this technology proven to work?

A. Whole-body cryotherapy is a technology designed to cool the body by exposing it to subzero temperatures (typically –200° to –300° F) for short sessions of two to four minutes. In some cases, people sit in a cold room; in others, they are placed in a special enclosure that cools them from the neck down. The theory behind cryotherapy is that cold temperatures can reduce inflammation and swelling in the body — much like an ice pack would on your swollen ankle. People who promote cryotherapy claim it can help treat symptoms related to numerous conditions, including arthritis, asthma, depression, and chronic pain, among others. They also claim that whole-body cryotherapy can aid in weight loss, soothe sore muscles, boost metabolism, and even get your blood circulating more efficiently. But while that may sound great, there's really no scientific proof that whole-body cryotherapy is safe, or any evidence to support claims about its health benefits, according to the FDA. And the FDA has not cleared or approved any whole-body cryotherapy device to treat any medical condition. In short, whole-body cryotherapy is still unproven and could potentially bring risks, so if you are considering using the technology, it's a good idea to discuss the decision with your doctor first.

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