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Whole-Body Cryotherapy in Athletes: From Therapy to Stimulation. An Updated Review of the Literature

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Nowadays, whole-body cryotherapy is a medical physical treatment widely used in sports medicine. Recovery from injuries (e.g., trauma, overuse) and after-season recovery are the main purposes for application. However, the most recent studies confirmed the anti-inflammatory, anti-analgesic, and anti-oxidant effects of this therapy by highlighting the underlying physiological responses. In addition to its therapeutic effects, whole-body cryotherapy has been demonstrated to be a preventive strategy against the deleterious effects of exercise-induced inflammation and soreness. Novel findings have stressed the importance of fat mass on cooling effectiveness and of the starting fitness level on the final result. Exposure to the cryotherapy somehow mimics exercise, since it affects myokines expression in an exercise-like fashion, thus opening another possible window on the therapeutic strategies for metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. From a biochemical point of view, whole-body cryotherapy not always induces appreciable modifications, but the final clinical output (in terms of pain, soreness, stress, and post-exercise recovery) is very often improved compared to either the starting condition or the untreated matched group. Also, the number and the frequency of sessions that should be applied in order to obtain the best therapeutic results have been deeply investigated in the last years. In this article, we reviewed the most recent literature, from 2010 until present, in order to give the most updated insight into this therapeutic strategy, whose rapidly increasing use is not always based on scientific assumptions and safety standards.
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REVIEW
published: 02 May 2017
doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00258
Frontiers in Physiology | www.frontiersin.org 1May 2017 | Volume 8 | Article 258
Edited by:
Duane C. Button,
Memorial University, Canada
Reviewed by:
Vincent Martin,
Blaise Pascal University, France
Sandro Remo Freitas,
Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
*Correspondence:
Giovanni Lombardi
giovanni.lombardi
@grupposandonato.it
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Exercise Physiology,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Physiology
Received: 01 February 2017
Accepted: 10 April 2017
Published: 02 May 2017
Citation:
Lombardi G, Ziemann E and Banfi G
(2017) Whole-Body Cryotherapy in
Athletes: From Therapy to Stimulation.
An Updated Review of the Literature.
Front. Physiol. 8:258.
doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00258
Whole-Body Cryotherapy in Athletes:
From Therapy to Stimulation. An
Updated Review of the Literature
Giovanni Lombardi 1*, Ewa Ziemann 2and Giuseppe Banfi 1, 3
1Laboratory of Experimental Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Ortopedico Galeazzi, Milan, Italy,
2Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Gdansk University of Physical Education and Sport, Gdansk, Poland,
3Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy
Nowadays, whole-body cryotherapy is a medical physical treatment widely used in sports
medicine. Recovery from injuries (e.g., trauma, overuse) and after-season recovery are
the main purposes for application. However, the most recent studies confirmed the
anti-inflammatory, anti-analgesic, and anti-oxidant effects of this therapy by highlighting
the underlying physiological responses. In addition to its therapeutic effects, whole-body
cryotherapy has been demonstrated to be a preventive strategy against the deleterious
effects of exercise-induced inflammation and soreness. Novel findings have stressed
the importance of fat mass on cooling effectiveness and of the starting fitness level
on the final result. Exposure to the cryotherapy somehow mimics exercise, since it
affects myokines expression in an exercise-like fashion, thus opening another possible
window on the therapeutic strategies for metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2
diabetes. From a biochemical point of view, whole-body cryotherapy not always induces
appreciable modifications, but the final clinical output (in terms of pain, soreness, stress,
and post-exercise recovery) is very often improved compared to either the starting
condition or the untreated matched group. Also, the number and the frequency of
sessions that should be applied in order to obtain the best therapeutic results have been
deeply investigated in the last years. In this article, we reviewed the most recent literature,
from 2010 until present, in order to give the most updated insight into this therapeutic
strategy, whose rapidly increasing use is not always based on scientific assumptions and
safety standards.
Keywords: whole-body cryotherapy, cryochamber, recovery, inflammation, metabolic effects, irisin
INTRODUCTION
Local and systemic cold therapies (cryotherapies) are widely used to relieve symptoms of
various diseases including inflammation, pain, muscle spasms, and swelling, especially chronic
inflammatory ones, injuries, and overuse symptoms (Bettoni et al., 2013; Jastrzabek et al., 2013).
The beneficial effects of cold as a therapeutic agent have been known for a long time, with ancient
population aware about the reinvigorating effects of cold water either taken orally or used for baths.
The use of cold, mainly locally, still remains in our daily common activities. A still up-to-date survey
of a sample of Irish emergency physicians highlighted the fact that 73% of consultants frequently
“prescribe” cold, 7% never suggest to use cryotherapy, and 30% is unsure about the benefits of
using cold. Experience (47%) and common sense (27%) were the most frequently declared reasons
for using ice, while only 17% referred to scientific reasoning (Collins, 2008).
Lombardi et al. Updates for Whole-Body Cryotherapy
Forty years ago, following personal observations of Prof.
Toshiro Yamauchi (who recognized that the combination of
cold and physical exercise was beneficial for clinical outcomes
of treatments received by his patients’, affected by rheumatoid
arthritis, coming back from mountain localities after winter
holidays), whole-body cryotherapy was introduced into clinical
practice (Yamauchi et al., 1981a,b).
At present, the use of very cold air in special, controlled
chambers may be proposed for treating symptoms of various
diseases (Bouzigon et al., 2016). Beside its clinical applications,
a brief full body exposure to dry air at cryogenic temperatures
lower than 110C has become widely popular in sports
medicine, often used to enhance recovery after injuries and to
counteract inflammatory symptoms resulting from overuse or
pathology (Furmanek et al., 2014). The number of studies about
the use of whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) in sports medicine
is growing, however, it is still lower than the topic’s potential if
the wide range of application of this methodology is considered.
Studies published on athletes had mainly focused on post-
training or competitive season recovery. Only a limited number
of papers had investigated the effects of WBC used in preparation
phase for competitive season to enhance form and performance,
or during periods of high intensity of training to limit overuse
and overreaching. Studies should be acknowledged to define
safety, effectiveness, and efficacy of the treatment in athletes and
to discover underlying molecular mechanisms supporting the
claimed beneficial effects.
This review article collects the most recent literature (since
2010, Banfi et al., 2010b) on whole-body cryotherapy with the
purpose of delivering a complete and updated overview of the
newest findings and the directions taken in research in this field.
In particular, given the high number of new scientific findings
mostly associated with great technological developments of this
therapeutic method, this review discusses both technical aspects
(i.e., therapeutic protocols, contraindications, thermoregulatory
responses) and effects on a wide range of physiological (i.e.,
hematological, metabolic, energetic, endocrinological, skeletal,
muscular, inflammatory) and functional parameters (post-
exercise and post-traumatic recovery, pain, performance). We
are aware of the limitations of this literature review. Almost
all published research included in this review discuss results of
using whole-body cryotherapy without providing any insight
into molecular mechanisms involved in observed responses to
the treatment. Also, although the review takes a non-systematic
approach, an alternative meta-analysis would only offer a limited
article coverage due to the type and, sometimes, the quality
of available papers. Furthermore, we only reviewed reports on
the WBC procedures performed in cryochambers (regardless of
the cooling system, but considering the operating temperature);
we do not consider treatments performed in cryosauna (also
named cryocabins). Exposure to cold in a cryosauna cannot
be deemed whole-body since during the treatment the head
remains outside of the cabin. The two settings were concluded
to, activate different molecular pathways and, possibly, exert
different outcomes. Indeed, in a cryosauna, cooling is delivered
through direct insufflation of liquid nitrogen vapors into the box.
Free vapors are heavy and tend to remain within the cabin, below
the chin; contrarily, in a nitrogen-cooled cryochamber liquid
nitrogen fluxes through pipes inside the chamber’s wall, and thus,
there is no free nitrogen within the chamber. These differences
also account for different safety standards of these treatments:
free nitrogen vapor in a cryosauna could be potentially hazardous
due to the risk of asphyxia.
In the present paper we refer to “whole-body cryotherapy,
which is the most commonly used term to define the
methodology, but also to “whole-body cryostimulation,” which
better describes effects of WBC in improving the metabolic
and inflammatory responses as well as in enhancing recovery
from exercise and injuries. In contrast, the term “cryotherapy”
refers to a real therapy aimed at treating painful symptoms of
inflammatory or traumatic conditions.
TECHNICAL ASPECTS
Standardized Protocol for WBC
WBC is performed in special chambers, with the temperature and
humidity strictly controlled. A subject, minimally dressed (for
e.g., bathing suit, socks, clogs, headband, and surgical mask to
avoid direct exhalation of humid air), enters a vestibule chamber
at 60C, where he stays for about 30 s of body adaptation and
then passes to a cryochamber at 110to 140C, depending on
the cooling system (electrical or nitrogen), where he remains for
no more than 3 min. It is mandatory to remove any sweat before
entry to avoid the risk of skin burning and necrosis. Access to the
chamber is allowed only in the presence of a skilled personnel,
controlling the procedures. A patients is free to leave the chamber
at any time.
Contraindications
Being a medical therapy, WBC should follow strict guidelines
and indications. Currently accepted contraindications for WBC
include: cryoglobulinaemia, cold intolerance, Raynaud disease,
hypothyroidism, acute respiratory system disorders, cardio-
vascular system diseases (unstable angina pectoris, cardiac failure
in III and IV stage according to NYHA), purulent-gangrenous
cutaneous lesions, sympathetic nervous system neuropathies,
local blood flow disorders, cachexia, and hypothermia, as well
as claustrophobia and mental disorders hindering cooperation
with patients during the treatment. When performed in the
appropriate and controlled conditions, WBC is a safe procedure,
which was demonstrated to be deleterious neither for lung
(Smolander et al., 2006) nor heart function (Banfi et al.,
2009a); however, recorded observation of a very slight, clinically
irrelevant increase in the systolic blood pressure (Lubkowska and
Szygula, 2010) justifies precautions indicated for patients affected
by cardiovascular conditions.
Temperature Changes
Studying body temperature modifications following WBC,
in comparison to changes observed in response to other
cooling techniques, represents a hot topic. This is thought
to be important since cooling effectiveness is the function of
temperature decrease within a certain range.
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Lombardi et al. Updates for Whole-Body Cryotherapy
Shifts in skin temperature (Tsk) of chosen body regions
monitored by thermography and contact thermometry, before
and immediately after a single WBC session (30 s at 60C,
3 min at 120C) showed, for the first time, the influence
of body mass index (BMI) on the range of alternations. The
highest magnitude of temperature changes was observed within
lower extremities (tibias: 8.7C; feet: 5.2C), the mean
total body temperature decreased by 5.8C, while the internal
body temperature dropped only by 0.8C. The mean changes
of temperatures at different sites correlated with BMI (r=
0.46); for example, explicative images show that temperature
decreased down to 8.1and 7.9C in a thin volunteer (BMI <
25 kg/m2) and down to 4.8and 5.5C in an obese participant
(BMI >30 kg/m2), in the chest and back regions, respectively
(Cholewka et al., 2012). Even more precisely than BMI, the
fat-free mass index (FFMI: fat-free mass/height2) and body fat
percentage in males were both found to correlate with changes
in skin temperature following WBC, (Hammond et al., 2014).
Body composition was, thus, observed to be one of the main
determinants of potential temperature changes and, possibly, of
therapy’s effectiveness. Cooling efficacy, indeed, differs between
males and females as demonstrated by Hammond et al.; however,
despite females having higher levels of adiposity than males,
they experience greater mean temperature changes compared
to males (12.07 ±1.55C vs. 10.12 ±1.86C). Compared to
males, females have 20% smaller body mass, 14% more fat,
33% smaller lean body mass, and 18% smaller surface area, a
higher subcutaneous to visceral fat ratio and a smaller ratio
of fat mass index (FMI) to FFMI. Furthermore, females’ BSA-
to-mass ratio is higher than males, and the heat loss increases
proportionally to this ratio. Under cold stress, females have a
more extensively vasoconstricted periphery, with greater surface
heat losses and show a significantly reduced sensitivity of the
shivering response. Taken together these evidences could explain
the discrepancy in cooling efficiency between sexes (Hammond
et al., 2014).
Costello analyzed reduction in skin, muscle (vastus lateralis,
at 1, 2, and 3 cm) and rectal temperatures following a single
exposure to either WBC (110C) or cold-water immersion
(CWI, at 8C). Immediately after these procedures, the
maximum drop in Tsk was observed with WBC (12.1 ±1.0C),
marking a bigger drop compared to CWI (8.8 ±2.0C). On the
contrary, core (0.3to 0.4C) and muscle (1.2to 2.0C)
temperatures shifted slightly with no differences between the
two treatments and the maximum decrease occurring after
60 min (Costello et al., 2012b). Similar results were obtained
on changes in Tsk at the patellar region; a greater drop was
observed with WBC immediately after the procedure, while 10–
60 min after the treatment a lower temperature was reached
with CWI (Costello et al., 2014). Interestingly, the authors had
set the question whether or not either WBC or CWI were
capable of achieving the Tsk (<13C) believed to be required
for analgesic purposes (Bleakley and Hopkins, 2010), yet they
concluded that this temperature was reached by neither of the
two procedures (Costello et al., 2014). Zalewski et al. confirmed
that the maximum drop in core temperature occurred 50–60 min
post-WBC (Zalewski et al., 2014).
In a systematic review, comparing 10 controlled trials,
considering either a 10 min-long ice pack application, 5 min
CWI, or 2.5–3 min WBC (110to 195C), the authors
illustrated that the largest reduction in Tsk was obtained by the
ice pack application due to the higher heat transfer constant
(k=2.18) compared to water (k=0.58) and air (k=0.024). The
obtained results confirmed negligible intramuscular temperature
variation regardless of the cooling modality as well as importance
of adiposity in determining cooling efficiency (k=0.23 vs. k=
0.46 of muscles; Bleakley et al., 2014).
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC is a medical practice that must be performed in
specialized facilities under supervision of a well-trained
personnel.
- WBC has contraindications that must be considered before
prescription.
- Cooling efficiency and, possibly, treatment effectiveness can be
influenced by body composition.
- Due to differences in body composition, cooling efficiency is
potentially greater in females than in males.
- WBC effectiveness in lowering Tsk exceeds that of CWI; muscle
and core temperatures seem to decrease in a similar way in
response to both treatments.
- The maximum decrease in core temperature has been noted
50–60 min post-WBC.
HEMATOLOGY
The study of hematological response to WBC allows to define
a wide range of effects covering modification of oxygen supply
potential, inflammatory response, and coagulation function.
Erythrocytes and Hemoglobin
We studied hematological parameters, including iron
metabolism ones, in 27 athletes belonging to National Italian
Rugby Team, during a summer camp (Lombardi et al., 2013a).
Two daily sessions of WBC (3 min, 140C) were performed
for seven consecutive days, one in the morning before the first
training session, the second in the evening after the second
training session. Athletes were strictly controlled for diet,
especially the correct iron uptake. A typical plasma volume
shift due to a prolonged training session of aerobic exercises
was taken into account when interpreting the results. Among
hematological parameters, erythrocytes (RBC), hematocrit
(Ht), and hemoglobin (Hb) decreased noticeably; particularly,
Hb decreased from 15.06 ±0.84 to 14.70 ±0.62 g/dL.
Red cell distribution width (RDW) increased, indicating
a rise of anisocytosis of RBC, although reticulocytes were
stable, but the immature fraction of reticulocytes (IRF) was
significantly decreased (Lombardi et al., 2013a). A decrease
of hemoglobinization could be a specific feature of the WBC
treatment. Indeed, a similar decrease of Hb (about 0.3 g/dL) and
IRF had been previously reported in rugby players, however, in
that case, RBC and Ht had not been affected (Banfi et al., 2008).
This difference could be attributable to a milder WBC protocol,
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Lombardi et al. Updates for Whole-Body Cryotherapy
with only five WBC (one per day, at 110C). The decrease
in the levels of Hb as well as RBC and Ht, is transitory and it
recovered during continuative treatments as demonstrated by
Szygula and colleagues in a study performed on students of
the Polish National Military Academy, who can be considered
physically active subjects, continuously performing exercises and
controlled for variables as diet and lifestyle (Szygula et al., 2014).
Recruited cadets were divided into two groups of 15 subjects;
one group was treated with WBC, the other did not receive the
treatment. Hematological parameters were measured after 10, 20,
and 30 sessions, which were performed daily in a cryochamber
at 130C, for 3 min. After 10 sessions, Hb decreased from a
mean of 15.1 ±0.74–14.4 ±0.94 g/dL and remained at this
concentration after 20 sessions (14.5 ±0.71 g/dL). It then rose to
15.1 ±1.1 g/dL after 30 sessions. Similar changes were observed
for Ht and RBC. The decrease of Hb, RBC and Ht lasted through
20 sessions of the WBC treatment; then the bone marrow reacted
by releasing new RBCs (Szygula et al., 2014). A decrease in
Hb and RBC was already described in elite Polish field hockey
players after 18 sessions of WBC (Straburzy´
nska-Lupa et al.,
2007). Hb also showed a decreasing though not statistically
significant trend, dropping from 15.0 ±1.0 to 14.4 ±0.8 g/dL,
in nine collegiate physically active subjects, who had completed
30 min step up/down exercise, aimed at inducing delayed-onset
muscle soreness (DOMS), and had been treated with two daily
WBC sessions for 5 consecutive days. In opposite, the control
group, which had undergone the same DOMS-inducing training
without the WBC or any other recovery treatment, experienced
stable levels of Hb (Ziemann et al., 2014). Nevertheless, some
data revealed that Hb and RBC were stable in 12 professional
tennis players, following 10 sessions of WBC applied twice a day,
at –120C for 3 min, over 5 days, during a controlled training
camp (Ziemann et al., 2012) as well as in 16 kayakers treated
twice a day for the first 10 days of a 19 day physical training
cycle (Sutkowy et al., 2014). It is thus, possible that shifts in
Hb and RBC induced by WBC are dependent on the discipline
and baseline hematological profile. This issue, however, still
has not been investigated. Mean curpuscular volume (MCV)
grew following the WBC treatment applied in rugby players
and in field hockey players (Straburzy´
nska-Lupa et al., 2007;
Lombardi et al., 2013a); in the latter group values of MCV,
mean curpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), and of mean curpuscular
hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) remained elevated up to a
week after the end of the treatment (Straburzy´
nska-Lupa et al.,
2007).
A slight dehemoglobinazion has two direct consequences.
Firstly, since the OFF-score, a parameter used to calculate
the probability of blood doping in athletes, depends on Hb
concentration and Ret count (Sottas et al., 2010; Robinson et al.,
2011; which remained stable), WBC may reduce the result of this
score and, thus, cannot be considered a performance enhancing
practice. On the other hand, the use of WBC to mask illicit
practices is unjustified because the potential decrease in Hb is
too small and the change itself is short-lasting and/or temporary
(Lombardi et al., 2013a). Secondly, the decrease in Hb and RBC
should be considered when the timeline of recovery strategies,
within a competitive season, is drawn.
Iron Metabolism
Martial status was not modified after the treatment in 27 rugby
players submitted to two daily WBC sessions for 7 consecutive
days (Lombardi et al., 2013a). Only soluble transferring receptor
(sTfR) increased significantly, but not pathologically, possibly
demonstrating initial high functional iron demand (Lombardi
et al., 2013b). Similar results were obtained in a more recent
paper by Dulian and colleagues. Regardless of the fitness level,
in a cohort of obese subjects (BMI >30 kg/m2), serum iron
and ferritin remained unchanged after the 1st and 10th WBC
session. Only hepcidin, a hepatocyte-derive peptide hormone
mediating iron depletion in inflammation (Lombardi et al.,
2013b), decreased moderately (Dulian et al., 2015).
Hemolysis
WBC enhances hemolysis, which could explain the Hb decrease
during initial phase of the treatment. A decrease of haptoglobin,
scavenger protein for free Hb released from broken RBC was
described in the above-mentioned paper by Szygula and co-
workers, after 10 and 20 WBC sessions, but a recovery appeared
after 30 sessions, following the changes in Hb and RBC.
Contemporarily, bilirubin increased, reflecting Hb catabolism.
Hemolysis stimulated release of erythropoietin (EPO), which
increased by 4.5% compared to baseline after 10 sessions, and
further by 10.8 and 10.1% after 20 and 30 sessions, respectively,
possibly supporting the recovery of RBC number after the initial
decrease. Even in the case of EPO, the shifts in concentrations
remained within physiological ranges (Szygula et al., 2014).
Leukocytes
Levels of leukocytes did not show any changes after 14 sessions of
WBC (twice a day, over 7 days) in the group of 27 rugby players,
belonging to National Italian Rugby Team, studied during a
summer camp (Lombardi et al., 2013a). The same was found for
the group of 16 kayakers treated twice a day for the first 10 days
of a 19 day physical training cycle (Sutkowy et al., 2014).
At the same time, leukocytes increased in the students of
the Polish Military Academy after 10 and 20 sessions, but
returned to baseline values after 30 sessions. The increase trend
covered both granulocytes and lymphocytes (Szygula et al., 2014).
Similar increase was also reported in tennis players, but not for
subcategories of granulocytes and lymphocytes (Ziemann et al.,
2012). Despite the increase, leukocytes always remained within
the physiological range. Mobilization of leukocytes from the bone
marrow and organs of residence has been hypothesized as a
possible cause of these increases although an explanation of this
phenomenon is still lacking.
In endurance trained runners, a simulated 45 min trail run,
designed specifically to trigger exercise-induced muscle damage
(EIMD), followed by four sessions of WBC applied once a day,
resulted in an increase in neutrophil count of 114% compared
to baseline, with the maximum peak recorded 1 h after the
exercise. The correspondent increase in neutrophils, following
passive recovery, accounted for 101% shift against baseline. The
authors hypothesized that the increase of circulating neutrophils
stimulated angiogenesis (via vascular endothelial growth factor—
VEGF expression) and the consequent improved perfusion was
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Lombardi et al. Updates for Whole-Body Cryotherapy
associated with a reduced delayed onset of muscle soreness
(DOMS) and, hence, an improved recovery (Pournot et al., 2011).
Platelets
Platelets did not shift in response to WBC sessions applied in
groups of rugby and tennis players (Lombardi et al., 2013a;
Ziemann et al., 2014) nor students of the Polish Military Academy
(Szygula et al., 2014).
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC causes a decrease in Hb, Ht, and RBC after 5, 10, and 20
sessions. A recovery of hemoglobinization is reached after 30
sessions. Ret counts remains unaffected by WBC.
- The effect of WBC on RBC and Hb can be influenced by the
type and intensity of physical training since in some groups of
athletes these changes did not occur.
- Hemolysis may be the cause behind the drop in RBC, Hb, and
Ht following the WBC treatment of 10–20 sessions.
- EPO is induced in the course of WBC with the aim to recover
to baseline levels of RBC and Hb.
- WBC should not have a boosting effect on bone marrow and
is not influencing athletes’ hematological parameters usually
controlled to test for illicit bone marrow stimulation.
- The level of leukocytes either does not change or only slightly
increases in response to WBC. Cryotherapy possibly mobilizes
leukocytes, especially neutrophils, with a positive effect on
DOMS.
- Platelets are not affected by WBC.
LIPIDS CONCENTRATIONS AND ENERGY
METABOLISM
Lipids are the main source of energy as well as the main
thermogenic substrate. It is thus, possible that an intense cold
stimulus of WBC affects lipid metabolism.
Sixty-nine physically active male subjects (10 professional
rugby players and 39 healthy individuals including policemen
and soldiers) were divided into three groups based on the
number of WBC sessions (130C, 3 min): (i) 5, (ii) 10,
and (iii) 20. Five sessions of WBC did not modify the lipid
profile. Ten sessions induced a 34% decrease in triglycerides
and much more after 20 sessions (from 108 ±50 mg/dL,
before the start of the treatment, to 69.4 ±27.2 mg/dL, after
20 sessions). After 20 sessions, high density lipoprotein (HDL)
cholesterol significantly increased (from 53.2 ±16.5 to 63.1 ±
27.4 mg/dL), whilst low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
decreased noticeably (from 97.7 ±48.3 to 72.8 ±52.0 mg/dL;
Lubkowska et al., 2010a). Concentrations of total cholesterol and
LDL also decreased in physically active males, who underwent a
30 min step up/down exercise supplemented with WBC applied
twice a day over 5 consecutive days; compared to the control
group, total cholesterol and LDL dropped by 43 and 52%,
respectively (Ziemann et al., 2014).
Adipose tissues, both white (WAT) and brown (BAT), become
activated during cold exposure. BAT is particularly consumed
during exposure to cold, contributing to energy metabolism.
However, 6 months of moderate aerobic activity combined
with WBC did not change body mass, fat, or lean body
mass percentages. Circulating adiponectin, leptin, and resistin
concentrations were also not modified while, again, LDL and
triglycerides decreased and HDL increased. The experiment was
performed on 45 overweight and obese men, asked to complete a
test on a bicycle ergometer, beginning with a workload of 1 W/Kg
of fat-free mass, then increased by 0.5 W/Kg half until exhaustion.
Participants exercised three times a week under researchers
supervision; once a week they completed a 45 min-long walking
session and, twice a week, attended a 45 min gym session. After 1
month from the start of the fitness program and 1 month before
its end, 20 daily WBC treatments at 130C for 3 min were done
(Lubkowska et al., 2015).
Ten WBC sessions (120C, 3 min), applied twice day over
5 days, in 12 professional tennis players, during a controlled
training camp, affected neither the resting metabolic rate nor the
percentage of fat used as a metabolic substrate; this was also the
case with healthy, physically active men treated with two daily
WBC sessions, for 5 consecutive days between step up/down 30
min-long exercises (Ziemann et al., 2012, 2014).
Recently, a differential effectiveness of WBC has been implied
to depend on the starting fitness status of the subject. Middle-
aged obese men (BMI >30 kg/m2) were grouped based on their
fitness level (low and high cardiorespiratory fitness level) and
exposed to 10 consecutive sessions of WBC over 2 weeks. Irisin,
a myokine induced by exercise stimulating WAT browning,
linked to enhanced thermogenic capacity (Boström et al., 2012;
Lombardi et al., 2016), increased slightly in both groups over the
course of 24 h after the first session of WBC. More interestingly,
irisin plasma concentrations increased by 20% in subjects with
a low fitness level, but decreased slightly in subjects with a high
fitness level (Dulian et al., 2015). The observed increase in irisin
corresponds with data of Lee and co-workers, who investigated
changes of myokine—irisin and adipokine—fibroblast growth
factor 21 (FGF21) in response to cold water immersion. In
contrast to trends in irisin, they observed a greater reduction in
FGF21, interpreted as a pronounced effect of the non-shivering
thermogenesis (Lee et al., 2014). There are no data about changes
in FGF21 in response to WBC.
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC has a dose-dependent improving effect on the lipid
profile.
- WBC does not affect the rest metabolic rate and energy
expenditure during exercise.
- WBC has a stimulatory effect on irisin expression, which
should act at the adipose tissue level by enhancing
thermogenesis.
BONE METABOLISM AND SKELETAL
HEALTH
Bone health is essential not only in whole-body health, but also
in determining and sustaining athletes’ performance (Lombardi
et al., 2016; Sansoni et al., 2017). Due to high energy expenses
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Lombardi et al. Updates for Whole-Body Cryotherapy
associated with high-level physical activity (Lombardi et al.,
2012), the risk of osteopenia and stress fractures (the inability
of the skeleton to modify its own microarchitecture depending
on applied loads) is always present. Based on these findings, the
availability of medical tools favoring recovery of the bone tissue
is highly desirable (Banfi et al., 2010a; Lombardi et al., 2011).
Ten professional rugby players, belonging to Italian National
Team, submitted to single daily sessions of WBC for 5
consecutive days (110C, 2 min), were compared to 10 players,
who completed the same training protocol without WBC
(Galliera et al., 2012). Bone metabolism was studied through
biochemical parameters. The soluble ligand of the receptor
activator of nuclear factor κB (RANKL) and its decoy receptor
osteoprotegerin (OPG) constitute a fundamental cytokine system
connecting the immune system and bone metabolism in
order to link pro- and anti-inflammatory balance to calcium
stores. RANKL is released from osteoblasts and lymphocytes
and activates osteoclasts, inducing bone resorption. Osteoclasts
express RANK, specific receptor of RANKL, which induces an
intracellular signal to reabsorb bone. The effect of RANKL on
RANK is blocked by OPG (Banfi et al., 2010a). WBC did not
affect plasma RANK and RANKL concentrations in athletes, but
increased OPG, thus, causing the OPG/RANKL ratio, an index of
resorption-to-formation balance, to grow as well. The increased
osteogenic potential may have a role in the post-fracture recovery,
but also in prevention of more insidious stress fractures (Galliera
et al., 2012).
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC could counteract the inflammation-induced bone
resorption.
INFLAMMATORY MARKERS
The anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of cryotherapy are
the most searched for by athletes and patients. The effectiveness
of the treatment in this specific ambit has been demonstrated by
a number of studies although the available data is contrasting and
still debated. Indeed, along with studies reporting direct effect
of WBC on inflammatory markers, there are several reports that
did not link any changes with the treatment at all. Nevertheless,
almost all of these studies agree on general benefits induced by
the treatment including improved pain, mood, and quality of
life (QoL). A prototypic example was found in patients affected
by fibromyalgia, an auto-inflammatory disease of unknown
pathogenesis and highly variable clinical presentation, always
characterized by chronic systemic inflammation, generalized
pain, and severe fatigue, which invariably and considerably
deteriorates the QoL; regardless of the conventional analgesic
therapy, compared to subjects not treated with WBC (n=
50), patients receiving the WBC treatment (n=50) exhibited
large clinical improvements in all the investigated parameters
depicting the QoL and the ability to perform daily activities
[pain by visual analog scale (VAS), global health status (GH),
fatigue severity scale (FSS), and short form (SH)-36; Bettoni et al.,
2013].
Tumor necrosis factor (TNFα), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and
IL-10 did not change in 11 runners, who underwent a 48-
min pro-EIMD training protocol and were treated four times
with either WBC at 110C or passive recovery. On the
contrary, the increase in the pro-inflammatory marker IL-
1β24 h post treatment and C-reactive protein (CRP) 96 h
post-WBC, were strongly attenuated compared to passive
recovery. In parallel, WBC had a greater inducing effect on the
anti-inflammatory IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) 1 h post-
treatment. The authors concluded that a unique session of
WBC (3 min at 110C), performed immediately after exercise,
enhanced muscular recovery by restricting the inflammatory
process (Pournot et al., 2011). Five days of WBC applied
twice a day (120C, 3 min), combined with moderate-intensity
training, in six professional tennis players, during a controlled
training camp, decreased TNFαserum concentrations by 60%
as opposed to 35% decrease observed in the untreated group.
IL-6, instead, increased slightly, but significantly due to WBC
(Ziemann et al., 2012). The pro-inflammatory role of IL-
6 has been recently revised (Peake et al., 2015). Indeed, it
has a dual effect depending on the production site and its
basal concentration. Chronically high, even if moderately, IL-
6, characterizing chronic inflammatory conditions (e.g., obesity,
sedentariness) stimulating the hepatic synthesis of this cytokine,
cause pro-inflammatory, and potentially deleterious effect. On
the contrary, even very high, pulsatile spikes of IL-6, originating
from low basal concentrations, derived from contracting muscles,
act as a powerful anti-inflammatory mediator (Lombardi et al.,
2016). In 18 professional male volleyball players, a session of
submaximal exercise increased IL-1βand IL-6 by 60%. The
WBC treatment (130C, 3 min), however, performed before the
exercise, prevented these increases. This study, thus, highlighted
a possible preventive effect of WBC on exercise-induced
inflammation (Mila-Kierzenkowska et al., 2013). However, in
rugby players, a single session of WBC (130C) did not
affect IL-6 values, regardless of the treatment‘s duration (1,
2, or 3 min; Selfe et al., 2014). The protective effect of WBC
was also demonstrated in 18 physically active college-aged
men, who underwent eccentric workout inducing DOMS. A
single session of WBC (110C, 3 min) performed after the
exercise had the same effect of a passive recovery (increased
IL-6, IL-1β, and IL-10). After 5 days, the repeated performed
exercise induced the similar biochemical modifications in
the untreated group, while in the WBC-treated group (5
days, twice daily) IL-6 and IL-1βwere unchanged compared
to baseline with IL-10 strongly elevated (Ziemann et al.,
2014).
In healthy young men, the extent of IL-6 increase, 30 min and
24 h after a single session of WBC, was much greater than the
corresponding increases observed after 10 days of the treatment
(Lubkowska et al., 2010b). Interestingly, the same authors also
demonstrated that in 45 healthy men, a different number
of sessions had a different effect on particular inflammatory
parameters. Five sessions of WBC increased IL-10 by 30%,
but this change was dissipated 2 weeks after the end of the
treatment. After 10 sessions IL-1αdecreased by 17%, while IL-
6 and IL-10 increased by 10% and 14% respectively, yet even
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in this case, these modifications were lost after 2 weeks. After
20 sessions of WBC the cytokine balance was confirmed just
like after 10 sessions, but in this case, the decrease in IL-1α
was sustained 2 weeks after the end of the treatment. IL-1β,
TNFα, and IL-12 remained unchanged over the observation
period. Consequently, the authors suggested to use 20 sessions
in order to induce adaptation (Lubkowska et al., 2011). In
professional rugby players, a slight, yet not significant decrease
in ferritin and transferrin concentrations was observed that,
together with an increase in the sTfR concentration, further
supported the anti-inflammatory effect of WBC. Indeed, these
parameters generally have a contrary behavior, when a chronic
inflammatory process is ongoing (Lombardi et al., 2013b).
Interestingly, as for hematological parameters and martial status,
a shift in the cytokine profile depends upon fitness capacity. Pro-
inflammatory cytokines (IL-6, TNFα) and adipokines (resistin,
visfatin) were higher in obese LCF subjects compared to the
obese HCF ones. IL-10 increased equally in both groups,
with adiponectin and leptin unaffected (Ziemann et al., 2013).
Even the drop in CRP, observed regardless of the number
of sessions (either 1 or 10), was much greater in obese LFL
than in obese HFL (Dulian et al., 2015). The anti-inflammatory
effect of WBC is in line with previous reports (Banfi et al.,
2009b).
Table 1 presents the findings about the effects of WBC on
circulating levels of cytokines and inflammatory markers.
It is worth noting that cooling therapies are often applied
interchangeably in athletes’ recovery treatment. Reducing
inflammation may have another interesting aspect when
achieved in athletes. The latest paper published by Roberts
and co-workers revealed that a cooling therapy (cold water
immersion-CWI: 10 min using a circulatory cooling unit,
temperature at 10.1 ±0.3C) used after resistance training
as a recovery strategy attenuates both acute changes in
satellite cell numbers and kinase activity that regulates muscle
hypertrophy, which may translate into smaller, but longer-
term training gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy.
Consequently, reduced inflammation in response to WBC may
have a negative effect on muscle hypertrophy (Roberts et al.,
2015).
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC induces anti-inflammatory effects.
- Findings about the effect of WBC on IL-6 are not always
concordant, probably due to differences in exercise protocols
applied. In general terms, a single session of WBC increases IL-
6 concentration, while multiple sessions recover it to baseline.
In this sense, WBC seems to mimic exercise-induced impacts.
- More consistently, WBC stimulates the anti-inflammatory
response (reduced IL-1βand increased IL-10, IL-1Ra).
- Fitness capacity affects the inflammatory response to WBC in
non-athletes.
- Further, investigations should focus on establishing, whether
reduced inflammation has a beneficial effect on athletes’
performance if they combine training and cold therapy.
ENDOCRINE FUNCTION AND HORMONE
PROFILE
Monitoring hormones is essential to assess health status
especially in athletes, who experience chronic intense workloads
associated with psychophysically stressful situations. WBC is
used to relieve stress conditions owing to the activation
of neuroendocrine and metabolic axes regulating thermal
homeostasis. However, only a few of reports published so far had
considered this aspect.
Salivary steroid hormones were monitored in 25 professional
top level rugby players, during a summer training camp.
The athletes were submitted to the WBC treatment (140C,
3 min) twice a day for 7 consecutive days, the first before
the morning training session, the second after the evening
workout. Saliva was collected before the start of the camp,
after the evening WBC session on the first day, and after
the last WBC session on the last day. Compared to baseline,
at the end of the first day (2 WBC sessions completed)
cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) decreased. After 7
days, cortisol, DHEA, and estradiol decreased, yet testosterone
increased. Importantly, in the majority of subjects variations
exceeded the critical difference (CD). CD is the minimal value,
calculated between two consecutive measurements of the same
parameter, using the same method, on the same individual
and including analytical and biological variabilities, which when
exceeded, testifies that an external factor is really modifying
the investigated parameter. Notably, the testosterone-to-cortisol
ratio, widely accepted as an index of the potential athletic
performance status, increased as a result of the observed changes
(Grasso et al., 2014).
Cortisol increased in six professional tennis players treated
with WBC twice a day for 5 days (120C, 3 min) after
moderate-intensity training, during a controlled training camp
(Ziemann et al., 2012), while testosterone remained stable.
Cortisol and testosterone were both stable in 16 kayakers from
Polish National Team, who combined exercise with two daily
WBC sessions during the first 10 days of a training cycle in
preparation for the World Championships (Sutkowy et al., 2014).
Six elite rowers were subject to a 6 day training cycle combined
with training sessions scheduled twice daily, each preceded by
WBC (125/150C, 3 min). During a control training session
without WBC, subjects experienced an increase in cortisol on the
3rd day of training; WBC delayed and reduced this increase on
the 6th day (Wozniak et al., 2013). After a normal training week,
10 elite synchronized swimmers performed two 2 week sessions
of an intensified training, randomly combined either with or
without daily WBC. The two sessions were separated by a 9 day
light training period. Although salivary cortisol was unchanged,
WBC mitigated signs of functional overreaching observed during
the control period such as reduced sleep quantity, increased
fatigue and impaired exercise capacity (Schaal et al., 2015).
A randomized, counterbalanced and crossover study on 14
habituated English Premier League academy soccer players, a
single WBC session (135C, 2 min), performed within 20 min
after a repeated sprint exercise (15 ×30 m), increased salivary
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TABLE 1 | Effects of WBC on circulating levels of cytokines and inflammatory markers.
Subjects WBC mode WBC sessions Effects References
IL-6
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 5 sessions Increased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
5 consecutive days No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 10 sessions Increased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
2 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 20 sessions Increased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
4 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
12 tennis players
(6 treated, age: 23.0 ±3.0 years,
BMI 23.2 ±1.8; 6 Kg/m2untreated,
20.0 ±2.0 years, BMI 24.4 ±
1.9 kg/m2)
3 min, 120C 10 sessions Increased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Ziemann et al., 2012
2 per day
5 consecutive days Significant difference vs. controls
12 men, obese
(age: 38.4 ±8.2 years, BMI >
30 kg/m2, divided in HFL group and
in LFL group, visceral fat area
>100 cm2)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions (morning
after light breakfast)
No effect on HFL group Dulian et al., 2015
No effect on LFL group
No difference between the groups
11 runners
(age: 31.8 ±2.0 years, simulated
trail with WBC treatment or passive
recovery, blood drawings before
and after the trail, and after 1, 24,
48, 72, and 96 h during recovery)
3 min, 110C 4 sessions No effect Pournot et al., 2011
14 obese men
(age: 40.0 ±4.0 years, divided in
HFL group and in LFL group)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions (morning
after light breakfast)
Decreased in LFL group compared to
baseline
Ziemann et al., 2013
18 volleyball players
(age: 28.3 ±4.0 years)
2 min, 130C 1 session Decreased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Mila-Kierzenkowska et al.,
2013
14 rugby players
(Mean age: 24 years)
1, 2, 3 min,
135C
1 session No effect Selfe et al., 2014
18 men
(9 treated, age: 21.7 ±0.9 years; 9
untreated, age: 22.0 ±2.0 years)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions No effect Ziemann et al., 2014
2 per day
5 consecutive days
IL-10
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 5 sessions Increased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
5 consecutive days Increase 2 weeks after the end of treatment
compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 10 sessions Increased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
2 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
(Continued)
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TABLE 1 | Continued
Subjects WBC mode WBC sessions Effects References
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 20 sessions Increased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
4 weeks* Increased 2 weeks after the end of treatment
compared to baseline
11 runners
(age: 31.8 ±2.0 years, simulated
trail with WBC treatment or passive
recovery, blood drawings before
and after the trail, and after 1, 24,
48, 72, and 96 h during recovery)
3 min, 130C 4 sessions No effect Pournot et al., 2011
14 obese men
(age: 40.0 ±4.0 years, divided in
HFL group and in LFL group)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions (morning
after light breakfast)
Increased in both groups compared to
baseline
Ziemann et al., 2013
18 men
(9 treated, age: 21.7 ±0.9 years; 9
untreated, age: 22.0 ±2.0 years)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions Increased compared to baseline Ziemann et al., 2014
2 per day
5 consecutive days
IL-12
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 5 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
5 consecutive days No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 10 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
2 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 20 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
4 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
IL-1α
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 5 sessions Decreased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
5 consecutive days No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 10 sessions Decreased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
2 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 20 sessions Decreased at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
4 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
IL-1β
15 healthy men (age: 22.0 ±0.8
years, BMI 23.2 ±1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 5 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
5 consecutive days No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
(Continued)
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TABLE 1 | Continued
Subjects WBC mode WBC sessions Effects References
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 10 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
2 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 20 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
4 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
11 runners
(age: 31.8 ±2.0 years, simulated
trail with WBC treatment or passive
recovery, blood drawings before
and after the trail, and after 1, 24,
48, 72, and 96 h during recovery)
3 min, 110C 4 sessions Significantly lower in WBC vs. passive
recovery after 1 and 24 h
Pournot et al., 2011
18 volleyball players
(age: 28.3 ±4.0 years)
2 min, 130C 1 session Decreased compared to baseline Mila-Kierzenkowska et al.,
2013
18 men
(9 treated, age: 21.7 ±0.9 years; 9
untreated, age: 22.0 ±2.0 years)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions Decreased in treated subjects compared to
untreated subjects
Ziemann et al., 2014
2 per day
5 consecutive days
IL-1ra
11 runners
(age: 31.8 ±2.0 years, simulated
trail with WBC treatment or passive
recovery, blood drawings before
and after the trail, and after 1, 24,
48, 72, and 96 h during recovery)
3 min, 110C 4 sessions Decreased Pournot et al., 2011
Significantly lower in
WBC vs. passive
recovery after 1 h
URIC ACID
46 subjects
(24 M, 22 F; age: 37.5 ±3.1 years;
BMI: 26.9 ±4.2 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 10 sessions Increased in both males and females
compared to baseline
Miller et al., 2012
1 per day
2 weeks*
30 men
(age: 27.8 ±6.1 years; BMI:
22.1–33.2 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 20 sessions No effect after 1 session Lubkowska et al., 2012
1 per day (morning)
20 consecutive days Increased after 10 and 20 sessions
IL-3
45 men from Military Academy (age:
23.5 ±0.8 years; BMI: 25.0 ±2.1
kg/m2); 30 treated vs. 15 untreated
3 min, 130C 30 sessions Decreased after 10, 20, and 30 sessions Szygula et al., 2014
1 per day (morning)
5 consecutive days Significant differences between groups at
each time-point
TNFα
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 5 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
5 consecutive days No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 10 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
2 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
(Continued)
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TABLE 1 | Continued
Subjects WBC mode WBC sessions Effects References
15 healthy men
(age: 22.0 ±0.8 years, BMI 23.2 ±
1.4 kg/m2)
3 min, 130C 20 sessions No effect at the end of the treatment
compared to baseline
Lubkowska et al., 2011
1 per day (morning)
2 weeks* No difference 2 weeks after the end of
treatment compared to baseline
12 tennis players
(6 treated, age: 23.0 ±3.0 years,
BMI 23.2 ±1.8 Kg/m2; 6 untreated,
20.0 ±2.0 years, BMI 24.4 ±
1.9 kg/m2)
3 min, 120C 10 sessions Decreased compared to baseline Ziemann et al., 2012
2 per day
5 consecutive days Significant difference vs. controls
11 runners
(age: 31.8 ±2.0 years, simulated
trail with WBC treatment or passive
recovery, blood drawings before
and after the trail, and after 1, 24,
48, 72, and 96 h during recovery)
3 min, 110C 4 sessions No effect Pournot et al., 2011
14 obese men
(age: 40.0 ±4.0 years, divided in
HFL and LFL)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions (morning
after light breakfast)
Decreased in LFL group compared to
baseline
Ziemann et al., 2013
18 volleyball players
(age: 28.3 ±4.0 years)
2 min, 130C 1 session No effect Mila-Kierzenkowska et al.,
2013
hsCRP
12 men, obese
(age: 38.4 ±8.2 years, BMI >30
kg/m2, divided in HFL and LFL,
visceral fat area >100 cm2)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions, in the
morning, preceded by
light breakfast
Decreased 30 min and 24 h after 1 session in
both groups
Dulian et al., 2015
Decreased 30 min and
24 h after 10 sessions in
both groups
RESISTIN
14 obese men
(Age: 40.0 ±4.0 years, divided in
HFL and LFL)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions (morning
after light breakfast)
Increased in HFL group compared to baseline Ziemann et al., 2013
Decreased in LFL group
compared to baseline
VISFATIN
14 obese men
(age: 40.0 ±4.0 years, divided in
HFL and LFL)
3 min, 110C 10 sessions (morning
after light breakfast)
Increased in HFL group compared to baseline Ziemann et al., 2013
Decreased in LFL group
compared to baseline
*Excluding Saturday and Sunday; HFL, high fitness level; LFL, low fitness level.
testosterone up to 24 h post-exercise. Still, the treatment had
no effect on cortisol, blood lactate, and CK (Russell et al.,
2017).
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC affects the hormonal asset, decreasing hormones typically
associated with psychophysical stress, such as cortisol, and
increasing testosterone, a typical anabolic hormone.
- Cortisol modifications during WBC treatment cycles are not
consistent in the current literature, possibly owing to different
stressors applied.
REDOX BALANCE
Oxidative stress is the main factor affecting athletes’ performance.
Muscle activity generates oxidants released in the intercellular
space following membrane leakage or breaking. Oxidants activate
chain reactions, amplifying production of reactive oxygen species
(ROS), which damage membranes, cellular structures and DNA.
Inflammation activates innate immunity, which produces ROS
and, through a vicious cycle, ROS-sustained inflammation
(Slattery et al., 2015). WBC has been advocated to possibly
enhance antioxidant capacities and, thus, counteract the exercise-
induced ROS production.
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The study on WBC effects on an oxidant-antioxidant balance
was performed in 16 kayakers belonging to Polish National
Team submitted to a 19 day physical training cycle. During
the first 10 days of the training cycle, the kayakers combined
exercise with two daily WBC sessions: the first in the morning
before exercise, the second session in the afternoon after exercise.
Day by day, the temperature was decreased from 120 to
145C. Blood drawings were performed at the beginning
of the training period as well as after 5, 11, and 19 days.
Lipid peroxidation products malondialdehyde (MDA), conjugate
dienes, and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) did
not show any changes. Glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity
decreased after 5 days, yet later it increased again to baseline
following WBC (11th day). On the last day of training, 9
days after the end of the WBC treatment, TBARS decreased
compared to baseline and the level on day 5, whilst GPx increased
compared to day 5. WBC may improve the efficiency of TBARS
elimination that positively impacts strenuous exercise (Sutkowy
et al., 2014).
Eighteen professional volleyball players performed the first 40
min submaximal exercise bout on an ergometer 2 weeks after the
end of season, and the second bout 2 weeks after the first one. A
single WBC treatment (130C) was conducted before the first
exercise bout. The activity of RBC catalase after WBC +exercise
was two times lower compared to that recorded after control
exercise, without WBC, as was the activity of RBC superoxide
dismutase (SOD; 8%; Mila-Kierzenkowska et al., 2013).
SOD and GPx activities were lower (by 44 and 42%,
respectively) after 3 days of training combined with WBC than
without the treatment in six elite rowers, subject to a 6 day
training cycle. Lower levels of TBARS and conjugated dienes
in erythrocytes were also found in the WBC-treated group
(Wozniak et al., 2013).
In healthy subjects, 24 males and 22 females, after 10 daily
WBC sessions, plasma uric acid, SOD, and total antioxidants all
increased compared to both baseline and the control group not
submitted to WBC. TBARS, although unchanged compared to
baseline, were also higher than in the control group (Miller et al.,
2012). During a 6 month long physical exercise program with two
daily WBC exposures over 20 sessions, a significant decrease in
SOD, catalase and glutathione reductase activities was observed
(13, 8, and 70%, respectively). SOD activity increased after
successive WBC sessions, while catalase activity progressively
decreased (Lubkowska et al., 2015).
Although a general beneficial antioxidant effect already after a
limited number of WBC sessions is described in these studies, a
dose-dependency was observed in healthy men, with 20 sessions
being the optimal number (Lubkowska et al., 2012).
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC has a dose-dependent improving effect on the redox
balance after exercise.
- WBC is able to decrease the activity of RBC enzymes probably
as a reaction to a decrease in total oxidants and an increase in
antioxidants.
MUSCLE DAMAGE PARAMETERS,
FATIGUE RECOVERY, AND PAIN
From athletes’ and sports physicians’ point of view the effect of
WBC on muscle damage and recovery is the most important
one. Indeed, muscle recovery has been the most claimed and,
possibly, the most debated effect of WBC. In this specific field,
the stimulatory effect of WBC is particularly claimed.
EIMD was studied in nine endurance runners, comparing
three different recovery modalities: WBC, far-infrared (FIR), and
passive. The runners performed three identical repetitions of
a simulated trail run on a motorized treadmill. Recovery was
evaluated 1, 24, and 48 h post-exercise. The eventual decrease
in maximal isometric force, after three isometric voluntary
contractions of knee extensor muscles, was used for judging
muscle damage due to strenuous exercise. The best results were
observed after WBC at 1, 24, and 48 h post-exercise. WBC-
enhanced psychological recovery within days after the exercise
including decreased perception of muscular tiredness and pain,
already after the first session of WBC. At the same time the pain
sensation was lowered by FIR only 48 h after the exercise and it
did not change at all as a result of passive recovery. Well-being,
evaluated through a standardized questionnaire for tiredness and
pain, was improved after 24 h due to WBC and after 48 h due to
FIR. Still, an increase in serum activity of creatine kinase (CK),
typical of strenuous exercise, was not improved by three WBC
sessions (Hausswirth et al., 2011).
A 40% decrease in CK activity was reported in rugby players
after five consecutive daily sessions of WBC (Banfi et al., 2009b);
it also decreased by 34% after 10 sessions in kayakers (Wozniak
et al., 2007). The same decreasing trend of CK was also confirmed
in 12 professional tennis players (CK dropped from 305.0 to 241.4
U/L in six treated subjects, while remained unchanged in the
control group ones: 286.7 and 295.5 U/L), during a controlled
training camp, during which players were treated with WBC
twice a day for 5 days (120C, 3 min; Ziemann et al., 2012).
The same was also noted in six elite rowers, subject to two 6
day training cycles with training sessions twice a day, all either
preceded by WBC or not (Wozniak et al., 2013) as well as in
physically active males treated with two daily WBC sessions
for 5 consecutive days between step up/down 30 min exercises;
in the latter case, the changes were also accompanied by a
significantly improved pain perception (Ziemann et al., 2014). In
professional rugby players, after a 7 day training camp with two
daily WBC sessions, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and aspartate
aminotransferase (AST) activities increased as a consequence of
high workload, whilst CK decreased slightly, but significantly.
Moreover, kidney function (estimated glomerular filtration rate,
eGFR), which could be impaired following muscle damages, was
unaffected by the treatment (Lombardi et al., 2014).
The WBC-induced attenuation in serum soluble intercellular
adhesion molecule (sICAM)-1 immediately after EIMD may be
responsible for reduced acute inflammatory response muscle
damage (Ferreira-Junior et al., 2014). The level of sICAM-1
together with CK and LDH activities decreased in rugby players
after 5 consecutive days of daily WBC sessions (Banfi et al.,
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Lombardi et al. Updates for Whole-Body Cryotherapy
2009b). After muscle damage is induced by exercise, leukocytes
are mobilized to injured tissues by sICAM-1 intervention, where
pro-inflammatory cytokines and ROS are released. WBC causes
vasoconstriction and reduces the number of leukocytes reaching
the muscles by inhibiting sICAM-1 (Ferreira-Junior et al., 2014).
However, it was also hypothesized that cold could induce an
extra-release of sICAM1 and, therefore, cause a decrease of
muscle inflammation; the final net effect is the same (Dugué,
2015).
Beneficial effects of WBC on psychological recovery within
days after exercise included a decreased perception of muscular
tiredness and pain- an greater-improvement compared to the
effect of other recovery modes, namely FIR and passive (Pournot
et al., 2011). Daily WBC in 10 top level female synchronized
swimmers (110C, 3 min), applied following training sessions,
improved athletes’ tolerance to training load by preserving sleep
quantity during the period of intensive training before the
Olympic Games (Schaal et al., 2015). The effect was evaluated
after the athletes had been randomly assigned either WBC or
non-WBC supported recovery. WBC use had a beneficial effect
on sleep duration, limiting sleep latency possibly conditioned by
post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation (Schaal et al., 2015).
On the contrary, in a randomized, counterbalanced and
crossover design, 14 habituated English Premier League academy
soccer players, Russell and colleagues found that a single
WBC session (135C, 2 min), performed within 20 min after
a repeated sprint exercise (15 ×30 m), increased salivary
testosterone, yet had no effect on cortisol, blood lactate, and CK
nor on performance (peak power output), recovery, and soreness
perceptions (Russell et al., 2017).
It is worth noting that, most of the data reviewed had been
obtained from athletes off season or during preparation training
phase. It mostly come from endurance athletes or from athletes
with a dominating aerobic metabolism. Limited data exist on the
conjunction of resistance training and WBC.
In summary, the following reports have been made about the
WBC treatment:
- WBC could limit the release of intracellular enzymes, but only
after a prolonged cycle of consecutive sessions.
- WBC-associated improvements in muscular tiredness, pain,
and well-being after strenuous exercise have been reported in
the majority, but not all, of the reviewed studies.
- WBC-mediated enhancement of muscular recovery depends
on the limitation of the exercise-induced inflammatory
response.
PERFORMANCE RECOVERY
Performance recovery using different cooling methods,
especially CWI and contrast water immersion, has been
extensively studied so far. Their average effect on recovery
of trained athletes is rather limited, as reported in a recent
review, but under appropriate conditions (whole-body cooling,
recovery from sprint exercise) post-exercise cooling has
positive effects even for elite athletes (Poppendieck et al.,
2013).
Positive effects induced by WBC after 96 h were reported in
18 physically active subjects, who performed a single maximal
eccentric contractions of the left knee extensors, through two
WBC sessions (110C) 24 and 48 h after exercise. The effects
were negative at 24 and 48 h post-exercise (Costello et al.,
2012a). Positive effects were also reported 24 and 48 h after the
treatment in nine runners completing a simulated 48-min trail
run, submitted to three WBC sessions, immediately after the
exercise as well as 1 and 2 days after (Hausswirth et al., 2011).
Eleven endurance athletes were tested twice in a randomized
crossover design with 5 ×5 min of high intensity running
followed by 1 h of passive recovery, including either WBC
(110C, 3 min) or a 3 min walk. Time-to-exhaustion difference
between a ramp-test protocol before running and 1 h post-
recovery was lower in WBC-treated subjects. WBC improves
acute recovery during high-intensity intermittent exercise in
thermoneutral conditions. This could be induced by enhanced
oxygenation of the working muscles as well as by reduction
of cardiovascular strain and increased work economy at
submaximal intensities (Krüger et al., 2015). In addition to
beneficial effects on inflammation and muscle damage, WBC
induces peripheral vasoconstriction, which improves muscle
oxygenation (Hornery et al., 2005), lowers submaximal heart
rate and increases stroke volume (Zalewski et al., 2014),
stimulates autonomic nervous parasympathetic activity and
increases norepinephrine (Hausswirth et al., 2013). These effects
favor post-exercise recovery and induce analgesia (Krüger et al.,
2015).
Although these evidences, a recent meta-analysis by Bleakley
et al., based on a small number of randomized studies,
highlighted that WBC sustains improvements in subjective
recovery and muscle soreness following metabolic or mechanical
overload, but little benefit toward functional recovery (Bleakley
et al., 2014). The authors concluded that, until further researches
will be available, less expensive cooling modality (local ice-pack,
cold water immersion) would be used in order to gain the same
physiological and clinical effects to WBC.
EXPOSURE
Time
Three-minute WBC exposure significantly differ from a 1–2-min
exposure. Blood volume decreased within vastus lateralis and
gastrocnemius occurred 0–5 min after WBC in 14 professional
rugby players. Oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin increased
in 15 min post-WBC, reaching baseline values indicative
of venous pooling. Extreme cold induces vasodilation after
constriction in very short time. Gastrocnemius is more
susceptible to pooling at all exposure times than vastus lateralis.
Two-minute WBC exposure causes changes in core and Tsk,
tissue oxygenation in vastus lateralis, and gastrocnemius and
thermal sensation. The optimum exposure time is 30 s at 60C
followed by 2 min WBC at 135C (Selfe et al., 2014).
It is also crucial to keep a constant temperature between two
consecutive treatments. Door opening and subject permanence
within a chamber increase temperature and reduce therapeutic
effectiveness, particularly for electrical cryochambers, but also
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Lombardi et al. Updates for Whole-Body Cryotherapy
for liquid nitrogen-cooled chambers. A 2 min wait between
two consecutive treatments would allow temperature recovery to
therapeutic levels.
Sessions
The number of sessions is crucial for WBC effectiveness, as
previously discussed. A recent Cochrane review, reporting on
the absence of beneficial effects of WBC on prevention and
treatment of muscle soreness in athletes, involves on only four
papers. One out of these four papers talked about six treatments
in cryocabin, the other two investigated the effects of a single
treatment in a cryochamber and the final one reported the
effects of only three treatments in a cryochamber (Costello
et al., 2015). A single session is probably not sufficient to exert
any significant effect. Twenty consecutive sessions should be a
minimum for effectiveness evaluation; 30 sessions should be the
optimum, because a complete hematological and immunological
recovery after the initial response is possible (Szygula et al.,
2014). Studies evaluating long-term WBC treatment are not
easily performable in professional athletes during competitive
seasons, but they could be proposed during training and summer
camps. Although offseason injuries are rarer than contusions
incurred during competitions, it is important to note that
standardization of exercise and training offseason is more easily
achievable.
Furthermore, randomization is very difficult, if not
impossible, to be proposed to elite athletes, and professional
teams: the treatment is proposed to improve recovery or to
prevent injuries, thus, it should not be limited to a subgroup of
athletes. On the other hand, when WBC is used for accelerating
recovery from trauma/injury, only injured athletes are treated.
Crossover studies could be more easily performed during
training camps (but not during competitive season), but they
would be only devoted to physiological modifications and not to
recovery.
Different, and sometime discrepant results presented in
current literature could be attributable to different levels
of subjects ranging from “physically active” to “elite” to
“national/international selection.” A stratification of WBC effects
should be evoked for different subjects, because of different
adaptation to effort, recovery capacity/velocity, and energy
metabolism.
CONCLUSIONS
Based on the findings here collected, the majority of evidence
supports effectiveness of WBC in relieving symptomatology
of the whole set of inflammatory conditions that could
affect an athlete. A small number of studies that did not
report any positive effects should, however, not be neglected.
The same applies to improvement of post-exercise recovery,
and noteworthy, to limiting or even preventing EIMD. The
perception of WBC is changing from a conventionally intended
symptomatic therapy to a stimulating treatment able to enhance
the anti-inflammatory and -oxidant barriers and to counteract
harmful stimuli. Importantly, cooling effectiveness depends
on the percentage of fat mass of a subject and the starting
fitness level. These results, combined with evidence that WBC
somehow mimics exercise, at least in its ability to induce a
pulsatile expression of myokines (IL-6, irisin), open another
window of possible therapeutic strategies for obesity and type 2
diabetes.
As above highlighted, some of the applied WBC protocols
have been ineffective in inducing appreciable modifications
of certain biochemical parameters. However, in these
cases, the final clinical output (in a subjective assessment:
in terms of pain, soreness, stress, and recovery) was
significantly improved even when compared to other recovery
strategies.
WBC, used either as a therapy or stimulation, is a medical
treatment and as such it has contraindications and standard
safety procedures. The undeniable risks for the users can be
rendered negligible if all the procedures are conducted following
precise rules under supervision of highly-skilled personnel. If
these procedures are carefully followed, WBC is absolutely
safe.
The scientific debate on WBC, often shaded by non-scientific
discussions hold in newspapers and web dictated by curiosity or
accidents (recent incident in a non-controlled cryocabin), needs
consensus and international cooperation for building up wide
and controlled studies.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
GL and EZ: conception and design, data acquisition; drafting
paper; final approval; agreement for all the aspects of the work.
GB: conception and design, data acquisition; critical revision;
final approval; agreement for all the aspects of the work.
FUNDING
This work has been funded by an unrestricted grant from the
Italian Ministry of Health and grant from the Polish Ministry of
Science and Higher Education No. 0026/RS3/2015/53.
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2017 Lombardi, Ziemann and Banfi. This is an open-access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).
The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the
original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this
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Frontiers in Physiology | www.frontiersin.org 16 May 2017 | Volume 8 | Article 258
... After repeated exposures to WBC the following effects have been measured: improvement of inflammatory and metabolic profile (White and Wells, 2013), enhancement of the antioxidant system , improvement of insulin sensitivity (Hanssen et al., 2016), increase of brown adipose tissue (BAT) volume percentage (Hanssen et al., 2016), decreased percentage of adipose tissue (Więcek et al., 2020), enhanced secretion of endorphins (Leppäluoto et al., 2008), and slowed down nerve conduction velocity (Bouzigon et al., 2021). Given the proven anti-inflammatory, exercise-mimicking effects (Lombardi et al., 2017), it is conceivable that patients affected by dysmetabolic conditions characterized by chronic low-grade inflammation could benefit from this treatment. A limited number of papers have taken into consideration the effects of WBC on patients with obesity focusing on hematological markers, metabolic parameters, lipid, and endocrine profile, antioxidant enzyme activities, inflammatory and cellular stress response (Dulian et al., 2015;Lubkowska et al., 2015a;Pilch et al., 2020aPilch et al., , 2021Więcek et al., 2020;Wyrostek et al., 2021;Ziemann et al., 2013a). ...
... In summary, a decrease of hemoglobinization, possibly associated with enhanced hemolysis, is a specific but temporary feature of the WBC treatment. Similar results have also been reported by studies not performed on cohorts with obesity/overweight (Banffi et al., 2008;Lombardi et al., 2013Lombardi et al., , 2017 indicating that they may simply reflect a temporary physiological adaptation. Hence, these findings should be considered when designing a treatment program. ...
... Although previous studies on athletes and healthy subjects had shown the beneficial antioxidant effect of WBC already after a limited number of sessions (Lombardi et al., 2017), a dose-dependency was observed in healthy men, with 20 sessions being the optimal number of sessions (Lubkowska et al., 2008(Lubkowska et al., , 2012. ...
Article
Currently available treatments for the management of obesity struggle to provide clinically significant weight loss and reduction of the chronic low-grade inflammatory state in order to reduce obesity-related complications. This scoping review aims to provide an up-to-date picture of the therapeutic effects of Whole-Body Cryostimulation (WBC) in patients with obesity and evidence-based indications for its complementary use in the treatment of obesity. We searched the literature until the end of August 2021, retrieving 8 eligible studies out of 856, all evaluated for their methodological quality using the Downs and Black checklist. Overall, the limited data presented in this review article seem to support the efficacy of WBC as an adjuvant treatment in obesity. The cryogenic stimulus has important anti-inflammatory/antioxidant effects and its effectiveness is directly related to the individual percentage of fat mass and initial fitness capacity, mimicking an exercise-induced effect. Based on the limited results gathered, WBC emerges as a promising adjuvant therapy to reduce systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, abdominal obesity, and body mass. However, the data presented in this review article fail to reach definitive conclusions with regards to the efficacy of WBC in the treatment of obesity. Application of WBC protocols yields the potential to widen the therapeutic armor for the treatment of obesity and obesity-related disorders but larger, high-quality studies are still needed.
... local and whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) is one of thermotherapeutic stimuli that is frequently used in Eastern Europe as a form of physical therapy. WBC is comprised of a short time (2-3 min) exposure in ambient temperature from − 110 to − 160 °C to stimulate the body by the intense peripheral hypothermia of virtually its entire area and such controlled exposure is considered to be safe [13,14]. Repeated WBC sessions are mostly used in form of therapeutic programme with many potential application: to decrease pain, chronic inflammation, as an additional therapy in acute injures soft tissue, rheumatic disease and neurodegenerative conditions and in process of recovery in athletes [14,15]. ...
... WBC is comprised of a short time (2-3 min) exposure in ambient temperature from − 110 to − 160 °C to stimulate the body by the intense peripheral hypothermia of virtually its entire area and such controlled exposure is considered to be safe [13,14]. Repeated WBC sessions are mostly used in form of therapeutic programme with many potential application: to decrease pain, chronic inflammation, as an additional therapy in acute injures soft tissue, rheumatic disease and neurodegenerative conditions and in process of recovery in athletes [14,15]. ...
... While the potential benefits of cryotherapy have been relatively well explored in a number of contexts (e.g. sport benefits, muscle damage, inflammation or sleep problems), to our knowledge, this is one of very few studies assessing the impact of short-term exposure to extreme cold on cognitive function, and the first to include patients with CFS [14,27]. Interpreting our results in a wider context is therefore limited, with the low number of previous studies compounded by their use of different treatment protocols, cognitive tests and the choice of populations under assessment. ...
Article
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Background The aim of this study was to explore the tolerability and effect of static stretching (SS) and whole body cryotherapy (WBC) upon fatigue, daytime sleepiness, cognitive functioning and objective and subjective autonomic nervous system functioning in those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) compared to a control population. Methods Thirty-two CFS and eighteen healthy controls (HC) participated in 2 weeks of a SS + WBC programme. This programme was composed of five sessions per week, 10 sessions in total. Results A significant decrease in fatigue was noted in the CFS group in response to SS + WBC. Some domains of cognitive functioning (speed of processing visual information and set-shifting) also improved in response to SS + WBC in both CFS and HC groups. Our study has confirmed that WBC is well tolerated by those with CFS and leads to symptomatic improvements associated with changes in cardiovascular and autonomic function. Conclusions Given the preliminary data showing the beneficial effect of cryotherapy, its relative ease of application, good tolerability, and proven safety, therapy with cold exposure appears to be an approach worth attention. Further studies of cryotherapy as a potential treatment in CFS is important in the light of the lack of effective therapeutic options for these common and often disabling symptoms.
... The extreme cold of Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) has become an emerging tool for sport and exercise recovery (Lombardi et al., 2017), demonstrating reductions in pain , inflammation , improved muscle strength recovery (Haq et al., 2021) and benefits to range of motion (De Nardi et al., 2015). Despite such effects, there is currently limited research which has identified conclusively the optimum WBC protocol for such purposes. ...
... Whilst WBC treatments are typically 3 min duration at −110 • C to −140 • C (Lombardi et al., 2017), the influence of treatment timing on WBC effectiveness has not been addressed. It would be useful to determine at what stage of recovery post-exercise WBC still evokes beneficial effects. ...
Article
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Despite several established benefits of Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) for post-exercise recovery, there is a scarcity of research which has identified the optimum WBC protocol for this purpose. This study investigated the influence of WBC treatment timing on physiological and functional responses following a downhill running bout. An additional purpose was to compare such responses with those following cold water immersion (CWI), since there is no clear consensus as to which cold modality is more effective for supporting athletic recovery. Thirty-three male participants (mean ± SD age 37.0 ± 13.3 years, height 1.76 ± 0.07 m, body mass 79.5 ± 13.7 kg) completed a 30 min downhill run (15% gradient) at 60% VO 2 max and were then allocated into one of four recovery groups: WBC1 (n = 9) and WBC4 (n = 8) underwent cryotherapy (3 min, −120 • C) 1 and 4 h post-run, respectively; CWI (n = 8) participants were immersed in cold water (10 min, 15 • C) up to the waist 1 h post-run and control (CON, n = 8) participants passively recovered in a controlled environment (20 • C). Maximal isometric leg muscle torque was assessed pre and 24 h post-run. Blood creatine kinase (CK), muscle soreness, femoral artery blood flow, plasma IL-6 and sleep were also assessed pre and post-treatment. There were significant decreases in muscle torque for WBC4 (10.9%, p = 0.04) and CON (11.3% p = 0.00) and no significant decreases for WBC1 (5.6%, p = 0.06) and CWI (5.1%, p = 0.15). There were no significant differences between groups in muscle soreness, CK, IL-6 or sleep. Femoral artery blood flow significantly decreased in CWI (p = 0.02), but did not differ in other groups. WBC treatments within an hour may be preferable for muscle strength recovery compared to delayed treatments; however WBC appears to be no more effective than CWI. Neither cold intervention had an impact on inflammation or sleep.
... choroby zwyrodnieniowe stawów, RZS, fibromialgia, toczeń rumieniowaty układowy itp.), guz chromochłonny nadnerczy, zaburzenia czucia w obrębie skóry, neuropatie współczulnego układu nerwowego, choroby układu sercowo-naczyniowego (choroba wieńcowa, przewlekła niewydolność serca klasy III i IV wg NYHA), niedoczynność tarczycy, ropne zgorzelinowe zmiany skórne, lokalne zaburzenia przepływu krwi. Powyższe objawy stanowią również przeciwskazania do krioterapii [22,41]. Ponadto, przed zakwalifikowaniem do badania, przeprowadzano szczegółowy wywiad przy pomocy formularza, który pozwalał wykluczyć osoby aktualnie chorujące na COVID-19, zgłaszające ból w dniu badania i w trakcie 24 h przed badaniem, z urazami ręki niedominującej oraz przyjmujące w dniu badania środki przeciwbólowe, alkohol WPROWADZENIE Efekt przestrzennego sumowania bólu (spatial summation of pain, SSp) obserwuje się, gdy wraz ze wzrostem powierzchni ciała poddawanej drażnieniu wzrasta intensywność odczuwanego bólu. ...
Article
Full-text available
ABSTRACT: During COVID-19 pandemic associated with multiple restrictions research performance is significantly hampered. This experiment aimed to verify, whether it is possible to adapt the experimental pain induction technique and observe the spatial summation of pain (SSp) within the field-like environment (so that it is possible to conduct the experiment outside of the laboratory and obtain similar results). Two variants of the Cold Pressor Task (CPT) were chosen to induce the SSp effect: i) using a professional apparatus available in the laboratory and ii) with the use of a commercially available plastic box filled with ice and water and a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water. Volunteers' (n = 9) hands were divided into 5 segments, which were then subsequently immersed in the cold water (5°C) for 60 seconds (5-minute intertrial interval). Each participant took part in two sessions, i.e., using laboratory equipment and its non-laboratory equivalent. Preliminary observations confirmed that it is possible to induce SSp using both laboratory devices and methods adapted to non-laboratory conditions. SSp effect size was found to be similar in both methods. Small differences in the level of reported pain were observed, but these differences did not affect the SSp effect. The study showed that it is possible to adapt the procedure to induce pain and SSp within non-laboratory environment.
... The effects on inflammatory biomarkers (IL-6, IL 9 etc) are reported in several studies as well as the effects on the lipid and hormonal structure (1-3). The use of cold to reduce the inflammatory response triggered by strenuous physical activity is widespread among high intensity professional and non-professional athletes (1,8). According to that reported in previous studies, WBC had an overall beneficial effect of on lipid, glucose, and protein metabolism (1). ...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives The study aimed to investigate changes in heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and body temperature in non-professional trained runners during whole body cryotherapy (WBC). Methods Ten middle-distance runners received 3 once-a-day sessions of WBC. Subjects underwent BP measurements and ECG recorded before and immediately after the daily WBC session. During WBC we recorded a single lead trace (D1) for heart rhythm control. In addition, the 5 vital signs Blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and body temperature were monitored before, during, and after all WBC session. Results We did not report significant changes in ECG main intervals (PR, QT, and QTc). Mean heart rate changed from 50.98 ± 4.43 bpm (before) to 56.83 ± 4.26 bpm after WBC session ( p < 0.05). The mean systolic blood pressure did not change significantly during and after WBC [b baseline: 118 ± 5 mmHg, changed to 120 ± 3 mmHg during WBC, and to 121 ± 2 mmHg after session ( p < 0.05 vs. baseline)]. Mean respiratory rate did not change during WBC as well as oxygen saturations (98 vs. 99%). Body temperature was slightly increased after WBC, however it remains within physiological values Conclusion In non-professional athletes WBC did not affect cardiovascular response and can be safely used. However, further studies are required to confirm these promising results of safety in elderly non-athlete subjects.
... WBC influences changes in muscular response during physical tasks [1]. In the available research, WBC has positively impacted muscles during isokinetic testing and vertical jump tasks [2,3]. However, scientific reports indicate a reduction in nerve conduction velocity, joint position sense, and proprioception following cryotherapy. ...
Article
Full-text available
Whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) is a popular treatment in prevention as well as post-injury therapy. The parameter used to assess the risk of injury is the ability of the human body to absorb and recover energy (elasticity). Therefore, this study aimed to assess the impact of whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) at 1 and 3 min intervals on the bioelectric activity of lower-limb muscles and countermovement jumps (CMJs) using trained subjects. A total of 24 individuals participated in the study. The mean age of the study group was 27.9 ± 7.9 years, mean body weight was 77.9 ± 8.8 kg, and mean body height was equal to 181 ± 6 cm. The training routine included 2–4 training sessions per week that lasted for at least 2 h at a time (mainly football). Along with the surface electromyography (sEMG) test of the rectus femoris, the BTS G-Sensor inertia measurement device was applied. After three minutes of WBC, a 6% difference in take-off force was noted, with a 7% (p < 0.04) decrease in elasticity. In the bioelectrical activity of the rectus femoris after MVC normalization, differences (p < 0.05) were noted 3 min after WBC. In this conducted study, a reduction in flexibility of the lower-limb muscle groups in the CMJ task was noted after 3 min of WBC.
... It also appears to improve the effect on redox balance in a session/treatment number-, age-, and fitness-dependent manner [58], probably through the decrease in the total oxidant production which, consequently, induces antioxidant activity [56,[58][59][60][61][62][63]. Thus, due to its widely recognized anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, and exercise-mimicking effects [64], WBC is proposed as a promising add-on option in the multidisciplinary treatment of FM, considering also that diffuse inflammation is one of the sub mechanisms of depression [65], and that co-morbid depression is very common among FM patients, with a lifetime prevalence of 62-86% [66]. In addition, all the articles we have cited in this scoping review reported no major side effects even after a great number of WBC sessions demonstrating the possibility of developing protocols that include a large number of treatments. ...
Article
Full-text available
Currently, all available therapies for the control and management of fibromyalgia (FM) are mostly focused on relieving patients’ symptoms and improving their quality of life. The purpose of this review is to provide an up-to-date overview of the evidence supporting the beneficial effects of whole-body cryostimulation (WBC) in patients with FM and evidence-based guidance on the possible adjuvant use of WBC in the treatment of FM. We searched the most recent literature by retrieving 10 eligible studies, 4 of which were abstracts only, from a total of 263 records. Thermal stress caused by cryostimulation induces an analgesic effect, improving pain, redox balance, and inflammatory symptoms in an exercise-mimicking fashion. In addition, it reduces the feeling of fatigue, improves mood, and reduces mental health deterioration with positive consequences on depressive states and improved sleep quality. Although the studies included in this review are not of sufficient quality and quantity to draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of WBC in FM, initial evidence indicates WBC as a promising add-on option in the multidisciplinary treatment of FM, due to its rapid action and high patients’ compliance. The application of WBC protocols has the potential to expand therapeutic options for the treatment of FM and related disorders; however, larger, high-quality primary studies are still needed.
... Thus, cryotherapy is commonly used by athletes following exercise to aid with recovery. Reduced temperatures cause changes in the blood, endocrine, nervous and immune systems, what promotes tissue regeneration [2,20,22]. According to Szafkowski et al. [27], one W-BC treatment causes changes in white blood cells, including a decrease in the number of lymphocytes and the subpopulations of T lymphocytes in healthy people (non-training persons). ...
Article
Whole-body cryostimulation (W-BC) is commonly used following exercise to accelerate recovery or as a form of therapy to prevent and cure sports injuries. This study aimed to investigate the effect of a series of 24 W-BC sessions on morphological and rheological blood indicators in physically active men. Eighteen physically active men participated in the study (mean age 22.1 ± 0.07). They were divided into two groups depending on their self-reported levels of physical activity: moderate or high physical activity. The participants completed a total of 24 W-BC sessions every second day, over a span of two months. Blood was collected at baseline, immediately after and 24 h after the first treatment, before and after the 12th treatment, before, immediately after, and 24 h after the 24th treatment, and one, two, three, and four weeks after the 24th treatment. Rheological and morphological indicators of blood were examined. The number of leukocytes was decreased in the moderate activity group (p < 0.05) but not in the high intensity group, following the first W-BC session. There were no significant changes in elongation index (EI) at a shear stress of 2.19–31.04 (Pa) in both groups as well as at the following values: aggregation index (AI), the half time (T½) and the amplitude of aggregation (AMP) in both studied groups. Differences between the first and the 12th or the 24th session became apparent in some morphological indices in one or both groups. Changes in the morphological properties were not observed after the first exposure but became evident following repeated W-BC sessions.
... Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is a potentially useful, albeit expensive tool for post-exercise recovery, demonstrating a variety of effects such as reductions in pain, swelling and inflammation (Lombardi et al., 2017). Whilst the treatment may benefit short term recovery (Hausswirth et al., 2011;Haq et al., 2021), athletes are concerned primarily with strategies to enhance longer term responses throughout a training cycle. ...
Article
Full-text available
Despite its potential merit in sport and exercise recovery, the implications of repetitive Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) during training programmes require further review due to the possibility of repetitive cold interfering with long term adaptations. This study investigated the impact of two weekly 3 min WBC sessions (30 s at −60 • C, 150 s at −120 • C) on adaptations to a 6 week strength and endurance training programme. Sixteen male participants (mean ± SD age 33.4 ± 9.8 years, body mass 82.3 ± 9.8 kg) randomly allocated into WBC (n = 7) and non-cryotherapy control (CON, n=9) groups completed the programme consisting of two weekly strength and plyometric training sessions and two weekly 30 min runs (70% VO 2 max). Participants were assessed for body fat, VO2 max, muscle torque, three repetition maximum barbell squat and countermovement jump height before and after the programme. Resistance and running intensities were progressed after 3 weeks. Participants in both groups significantly improved muscle torque (WBC: 277.1 ± 63.2 Nm vs. 318.1 ± 83.4 Nm, p < 0.01, d = 0.56; CON: 244.6 ± 50.6 Nm vs. 268.0 ± 71.8 Nm, p = 0.05, d = 0.38) and barbell squat (WBC: 86.4 ± 19.5 kg vs. 98.9 ± 15.2 kg, p = 0.03, d = 0.69; CON: 91.1 ± 28.7 kg vs. 106.1 ± 30.0 kg, p<0.01, d=0.51) following the 6 week programme. For the CON group, there was also a significant reduction in body fat percentage (p = 0.01) and significant increase in jump height (p = 0.01). There was no significant increase in VO2 max for either group (both p > 0.2). There was no difference between WBC and CON for responses in muscle torque, 3RM barbell squat and body fat, however WBC participants did not increase their jump height (p = 0.23). Repetitive WBC does not appear to blunt adaptations to a concurrent training programme, although there may be an interference effect in the development of explosive power. Sports practitioners can cautiously apply repetitive WBC to support recovery post-exercise without undue concern on athletes' fitness gains or long term performance, particularly throughout training phases focused more on general strength development than explosive power.
Article
Cryotherapy is one of the most common treatments for trauma or fatigue in the field of sports medicine. However, the molecular biological effects of acute cold exposure on skeletal muscle remain unclear. Therefore, we used zebrafish, which have recently been utilized as an animal model for skeletal muscle, to comprehensively investigate and selectively clarify the time-course changes induced by cryotherapy. Zebrafish were exposed intermittently to cold stimulation three times for 15 min each. Thereafter, skeletal muscle samples were collected after 15 min and 1, 2, 4, and 6 h. mRNA sequencing revealed the involvement of trim63a, fbxo32, fbxo30a, and klhl38b in “protein ubiquitination” from the top 10 most upregulated genes. Subsequently, we examined the time-course changes of the four genes by quantitative PCR, and their expression peaked 2 h after cryotherapy and returned to baseline after 6 h. Moreover, the proteins encoded by trim63a and fbxo32 (muscle-specific RING finger protein 1 [MuRF1] and muscle atrophy F-box, respectively), which are known to be major genes encoding E3 ubiquitin ligases, were examined by western blotting, and MuRF1 expression displayed similar temporal changes as trim63a expression. These findings suggest that acute cold exposure transiently upregulates E3 ubiquitin ligases, especially MuRF1; thus, cryotherapy may contribute to the treatment of trauma or fatigue by promoting protein processing.
Article
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Bone and energy metabolisms regulation depends on a two-way street aimed at regulating energy utilization. Mountain ultra-marathons are highly demanding aerobic performances that deeply affect the whole body homeostasis. In this study we aimed to investigate and characterize the metabolic profile (in terms of hormones involved in energy metabolism), the inflammatory adipokines, and the bone turnover; in particular the osteocalcin-mediated response has been compared in experienced mountain ultra-marathons runners versus control subjects. Serum concentrations of specific markers of bone turnover (pro-collagen type I N-terminal propeptide, carboxylated/undercarboxylated osteocalcin), measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and metabolic hormones (C-peptide, insulin, glucagon, glucagon-like peptide, gastric-inhibitory peptide, ghrelin, leptin, resistin, and visfatin), measured by fluorescent-based multiplex assay, were compared before and after a 65 km mountain ultra-marathons in 17 trained runners and 12 age-matched controls characterized by a low physical activity profile. After the mountain ultra-marathons, runners experienced a reduction in pro-collagen type I N-terminal propeptide, though it remained higher than in controls; while carboxylated osteocalcin remained unchanged. Among the metabolic hormones, only glucagon and leptin were different between runners and controls at rest. C-peptide and leptin decreased after the mountain ultra-marathons in runners; while glucagon, glucagon-like peptide 1, resistin, and visfatin were all increased. Uncarboxylated osteocalcin (and uncarboxylated/carboxylated osteocalcin ratio) was decreased and this highly correlated with insulin and C-peptide levels. In conditions of high energy expenditure, homeostasis is maintained at expenses of bone metabolism. Changes in the uncarboxylated osteocalcin clearly mark the global energy needs of the body.
Article
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In professional youth soccer players, the physiological, performance and perceptual effects of a single whole body cryotherapy (WBC) session performed shortly after repeated sprint exercise were investigated. In a randomized, counter-balanced and crossover design, 14 habituated English Premier League academy soccer players performed 15 x 30 m sprints (each followed by a 10 m forced deceleration) on two occasions. Within 20 min of exercise cessation, players entered a WBC chamber (Cryo: 30 s at -60°C, 120 s at -135°C) or remained seated (Con) indoors in temperate conditions (∼25°C). Blood and saliva samples, peak power output (countermovement jump) and perceptual indices of recovery and soreness were assessed pre-exercise and immediately, 2 h and 24 h post-exercise. When compared to Con, a greater testosterone response was observed at 2 h (+32.5 ± 32.3 pg[BULLET OPERATOR]ml, +21%) and 24 h (+50.4 ± 48.9 pg[BULLET OPERATOR]ml, +28%) post-exercise (both P=0.002) in Cryo (trial x treatment interaction: P=0.001). No between trial differences were observed for other salivary (cortisol and testosterone/cortisol ratio), blood (lactate and Creatine Kinase), performance (peak power output) or perceptual (recovery or soreness) markers (all trial x treatment interactions: P>0.05); all of which were influenced by exercise (time effects: all P<0.05). A single session of WBC performed within 20 min of repeated sprint exercise elevated testosterone concentrations for 24 h but did not affect any other performance, physiological or perceptual measurements taken. While unclear, WBC may be efficacious for professional soccer players during congested fixture periods.
Article
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Background. Whole-body cryotheraphy has been used by sports professionals as a training adjunct for many years. As bibliographic data presenting empirical research concerning this subject are limited, we carried out a study to evaluate the effect of whole-body cryotherapy on selected blood chemistry markers, including interieukin-1β (IL-1β), in professional athletes. Material and methods. The study enrolled 11 Polish men's national field hockey team members aged 25.8 ± 2.9 years (min. 21, max 31 yrs). Whole-body cryotherapy was administered twice a day (at temperatures from -120°C to -130°C) for 2.5-3 minutes, for a total of 18 procedures. In addition, all participants attended a general fitness training session in a gymnasium after each cryotherapy procedure. Blood chemistry determinations (erythrocyte sedimentation rate - ESR, leukocyte count - WBC, erythrocyte count - RBC, platelets, haemoglobin - HGB, haematocrit - HCT, MCV, MCH, MCHC, percentage of lymphocytes, monocytes and neutrophils, and interieukin-1β levels) were performed at baseline and on completion of the series of 18 cryotherapy procedures as well as one week later. Results and Conclusions. Whole-body cryotherapy significantly decreased the RBC, HGB and HCT parameters in peripheral blood. The decrease was, however, not permanent and after one week the parameters returned to baseline values (RBC, HCT) or were increased in comparison to baseline values (HGB). Whole-body cryotherapy was not found to have an immunomodulatory effect in the study group (WBC, percentage of lymphocytes, monocytes or neutrophils, IL-1β levels), except for its effect on the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), which did not change immediately after the treatment but was significantly lower one week later.
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