What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery refers to the use of extremely low temperatures to destroy abnormal tissues. The treatment involves the use of liquid nitrogen which produces the cold temperatures. Cryotherapy is commonly used to destroy tumors that develop in the external tissues such as skin cancer.
The liquid nitrogen is applied directly to the external tumor using a cotton swab or a spraying device. Besides the liquid nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide can also be used. The low temperatures between -346 and -320 have been found to destroy the tumors by freezing them instantly. The ability to kill and destroy human cells upon contact has made it valuable for the treatment of some forms of cancer.
The form of treatment originated from Japan in 1978. Cryotherapy was originally developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, its benefits have been studied and refined in Europe since its discovery. Cryotherapy is now practiced in the United States in the management of various conditions.
The purpose of cryotherapy is to destroy the abnormal tissues in the body. However, it is not the first line of treatment for conditions such as cancer. It can be used when other forms of treatment are not successful. Cryotherapy can also be used alongside other types of treatment to increase their effectiveness. Besides skin cancer, cryotherapy can also be used to treat cancer of the internal organs such as the liver. It is also the primary treatment for prostate cancer.
Several types of cancer can be treated with cryotherapy. It can also be used to manage some precancerous and noncancerous conditions. Besides the prostate and liver cancers, cryotherapy can be used to treat retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is a type of cancer that affects the retina of the eye during childhood. Doctors have discovered that cryotherapy is effective when the tumor is still small and not widely spread.
The form of treatment can also be used in the management the early-stage skin cancers. Both squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma can be managed using cryotherapy. Precancerous skin conditions are known as actinic keratosis, and those of the cervix, called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia can also be treated with cryosurgery.
Some low-grade cancerous and non-cancerous tumors of the bone can also be treated with cryotherapy. Compared with more extensive surgery, cryotherapy reduces the risk of joint damage, and it also lessens the need for an amputation.
Uses and Health Benefits of Cryotherapy
Although an extreme cold can result in devastating effects on the body, the precise application of cryotherapy has several health benefits. However, similar to other forms of treatment it is advisable to always consult a healthcare provider before using cryotherapy. If your doctor prescribes its use, then you will experience the following benefits:
1. Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Through its ability to freeze and kill human cells, cryotherapy is capable of killing cancerous cells growing in the body. Although it is commonly used in the treatment of skin and cervical cancer, it is not limited to these types of cancer. Tumors of the kidney, skin, and liver can also be treated with cryosurgery.
Cryotherapy probes are used when the cancer is located deep inside the body. When cancer develops in a more accessible area such as the skin, a cotton swab or a spraying device is used to apply the liquid nitrogen.
The method of application does not determine the results of the treatment. The liquid freezes the growths arising in the destruction of the tumor growths. Multiple cryotherapy treatments may be needed to get rid of some tumors entirely.
2. Pain Relief
Cryotherapy is useful in the treatment of pain. It is commonly used to treat nerve pain. Cryotherapy is mostly utilized for the treatment of nerve pain that is resistant to other forms of treatment. A cryotherapy probe is used to freeze the nerves and render them numb. Cryotherapy is most useful for the treatment of pain that results from a single isolated nerve.
The pain from an isolated nerve is mostly caused by benign growths in the nerve also known as neuromas. They may also result from a nerve entrapment. Cryosurgery can also be used to manage pain arising from arthritis. The arthritic pain is controlled using the “whole body cryotherapy.” Cryosurgery works by relieving the pain that results from inflammation.
Whole body cryotherapy is common among athletes. They use it to alleviate muscles soreness that may arise after exercise. The cold temperatures help relieve inflammation by causing vasoconstriction of the blood vessels. “Whole body cryotherapy” is the best alternative to ice baths in the management of pain.
3. Weight Loss
Besides regular exercises and diet, cryotherapy can help maintain a healthy weight. Studies have revealed that when cryotherapy can burn up to 800 calories when it is combined with regular exercise and proper diet.
Regular cryotherapy sessions have been found to reset the body’s metabolic rate. It increases the rate of metabolism for up to eight hours after each session lasting for three minutes. As a result, there is increased blood circulation into tissue and elimination of wastes from the body. Cryotherapy also boosts the metabolic rate after several treatments.
Weight loss is mostly achieved during whole body cryotherapy. The body is subjected to an abrupt drop in temperature. As a result, the body responds by boosting its metabolic rate to burn more calories.
4. Health and Wellness
Cryotherapy can help alleviate inflammation and increase cellular survival, hence promoting the overall body health. During cryotherapy, there is increased blood flow to the area being treated.
The increase in blood flow is a survival mechanism against the low temperatures. The blood is oxygenated and dense in nutrients to promote healthy tissue growth. After the treatment is over, the blood flows away from the area removing toxins and carbon dioxide. The removal of toxins encourages natural healing.
Cryotherapy promotes health and wellness by alleviating conditions such as depression, insomnia, fatigue, and migraines. It is also used in the management of anxiety and stress. Incidences of flu and cold can also be managed using cryotherapy. Cryotherapy can also be used as a preventive therapy for conditions like osteoporosis.
5. Beauty and Aging
Cryotherapy is a natural and inexpensive method of achieving anti-aging results. The process is natural and safe since it does not involve the expensive surgical procedures. Its anti-aging results include stimulated the production of collagen and a tightened skin.
The process also increases blood flow to the skin promoting oxygen and nutrients delivery. The removal of toxins and other unwanted substances from the skin reduces the damage of the skin by oxidative stress. There is also the production of a healthy skin complexion as well as the prevention of skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and development of blemishes.
Individuals recovering from surgery can benefit from cryotherapy. Alleviated inflammation and increased blood flow can give the patient a quick recovery. However, it is advisable to consult the doctor before undergoing cryotherapy treatment after a surgical procedure.
The benefits of cryotherapy after surgery include improved post-surgery recovery through increased circulation and removal of toxins. There is also reduced inflammation and pain. The analgesic effects of the released endorphins provide a natural recovery.
Risks and Side Effects
The use of cryotherapy can result in some risks and side effects. However, the risks are lower compared with those from other forms of treatment such as radiation and surgery. The risks include the development of blisters on the skin. Blisters may develop when the liquid nitrogen is applied topically on the skin using a cotton swab.
Cryotherapy may also result in damage to the neighboring tissues or vessels. An infection may also develop. The numbing of nerves may result in a loss of sensation of the affected nerves. The patient may also experience scarring and pain in the affected area. Other possible risks include sexual dysfunction, ulcers, and development of a white skin at the site of the surgical procedure.
Cryosurgery may also result in the loss pigmentation and as well as hair in the treated area. When it is used to treat growths in the bone, cryotherapy may cause the destruction of the adjacent bone tissues causing fractures.
When it used to treat tumors present in the cervix, you may experience a watery discharge that may last for some days. The discharge can sometimes have blood stains. It is advisable to refrain from sexual intercourse because the cervix is extremely sensitive during healing.
Side effects of cryotherapy to the prostate include constipation and presence of blood in urine. However, the side effect resolves after a few weeks. There is a risk of damaging the nerves that are responsible for erections.
How Cryotherapy Works
Cryotherapy works by making the body freezing. It makes the body cold enough to freeze the tissues at the cellular level. It also causes numbing of the nerves to help alleviate pain that arises from the nerves. The result of these effects is a clear health benefit such as relief of pain.
More studies need to be performed to determine the effectiveness of cryotherapy in the treatment and prevention of cancer. Results from the research will help healthcare providers to compare cryosurgery to other forms of cancer treatment such as radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy.