There’s nothing like cold to make you feel alive! Plus, cold works as an anesthetic.
Within the Ultimate Healing Guide, cold therapy is the second most-aggressive method to reconnect with your bodymind. Fast-acting self-awareness is available to those who can exert mind over cold. With the assistance of extreme temperatures ranging between 35°F and 50°F / 1°C and 10°C (for water), or around -110°F (for dry air cryotherapy), you come face to face with the limits of your resolve.
Cold is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice is useful for numbing pain in muscles and can be used to decrease spasms and muscle guarding (a response to pain or fear of movement).
What is not as well known is that cold can be used to treat almost every physiological and psychological ailment, including chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. This is not a medical claim. Whether cold works or not for your chronic symptoms is something for you to discover on your path towards mindbody wellness.
Anyone who lives at latitudes which freeze in the winter months will have stories about the cold. People will say cold makes them feel alive! There’s plenty of evidence everywhere you care to look: cold increases self-awareness. Anything which increases self-awareness also increases one’s resiliency to the effects of suffering.
Cold therapy increases self-awareness
Our ultimate health goal should always include the restoration of self-awareness. Without self-awareness, we cannot exert control over our habits, routines, addictions, or health and fitness choices. Cold has a way to get your awareness locked back onto the present moment really freakin’ quick.
“Cryotherapy includes whole body cryotherapy (dry air colder than −110°F for 1–3 min), cold-water immersion, ice or frozen gel pack application, ice massage or any other local or general application of cold for therapeutic purposes.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
Whole body cryotherapy stimulates the body’s autonomic nervous system and decreases core temperature (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
Wim Hof (aka “The Iceman”), an extreme athlete from the Netherlands, has contributed to the growing body of scientific evidence that humans are capable of consciously overriding our autonomous nervous system to maintain core temperature in icy conditions, among other things (https://www.wimhofmethod.com/science).
Check out our article on the Wim Hof Method.
Books on Therapeutic Cold
The Way of the Iceman: How the Wim Hof Method Creates Radiant, Longterm Health
Paperback – February 26, 2017
by Wim Hof (Author), Koen De Jong (Author)
Cold Therapy: Cold Thermogenesis: Cold Showering Discipline
Paperback – May 18, 2016
by Cole Campbell (Author)
Cryotherapy: The Truth About Cryogenics: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Decrease Inflammation, Eliminate Pain, And Get Rid of Headaches
Paperback – August 5, 2015
by Arnold Hendrix (Author)
You put your body into the cold on purpose
By subjecting yourself to the extremes of cold, you (the self) are immediately forced into a confrontation with your body’s automatic systems. Cold submersion means pitting your voluntary will against your body’s survival responses. Either the cold will bowl you over and overwhelm your ability to confront it, or you will exert your will over your body sensations and thoughts – and find an inner calm when others would be shouting and running away.
You put your body into the cold, and then you command it to remain calm. You put your awareness on how the body feels and force it to calm down through deep breathing techniques and intense focus of your attention. Take conscious command of your body and override the fight-or-flight response, or you lose control and you start to shiver and complain.
If the cold isn’t extreme enough to evoke this response, then the full benefits of cold therapy will never be appreciated. There’s no quicker way to bring yourself to the precipice of self over body and mind, except by taking it to the next extreme with the Wim Hof Method, listed separately in this Guide.
Cold therapy and ice compression for injury
Most of us know athletes around the world have long used cold and ice after workouts or a hard game to reduce muscle inflammation, relieve pain and muscle soreness, and to speed recovery time. Sports medicine doctors and healthcare professionals the world over have recommended the direct application of ice for calming down the inflammatory response at the site of an injury for ages. And many professional sports players can be seen taking ice baths after a grueling game of football or hockey.
In fact, icing became standard treatment after Dr. Gabe Mirkin published his “Sportsmedicine Book” in 1978, back when he coined the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). However, last year, Dr. Mirkin published an update on his website which says, “anything that reduces inflammation also delays healing,” and that “there is no reason to apply ice more than six hours after you have injured yourself.” (http://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html).
Don’t throw yourself into an ice bath
If you’ve never experienced cold therapy, you should start with cold showers. The idea you’d start straight away with an ice bath is an absurd proposition for anyone not acclimated to the cold. You just don’t throw yourself to the wolves and expect to survive.
While ice baths may be recommended for certain situations, the concept of cold therapy doesn’t need to involve anything this extreme. Don’t just throw yourself into freezing ice water unless you want to freeze your genitals with pain you didn’t expect.
The many alternatives of cold exposure and cold therapy
While the thought of an ice bath might not sound appealing to anyone, there are many ways to treat yourself to cold therapy and gain the benefits without suffering such extreme exposure. And while subjecting oneself to -240°F sounds like an insane suggestion, dry cold doesn’t freeze your body. Three minutes in dry air at -240°F is probably easier to tolerate than 10 minutes submerged in 50°F water for most people.
Cold Plunge Pools
To experience a more extended, more penetrating version of cold therapy, find where you can visit a facility with cold plunge pools near where you live and give it a try. Your reaction to cold water will always be subjective to your personal experience, but a cold tub with 50°F or 55°F water is about twenty degrees warmer than an ice bath.
Cold therapy is also known as Cryotherapy. This is not to be confused with Cryo-Surgery, which uses a liquid nitrogen cryoprobe to destroy diseased tissue with intense cold. Cryosurgery, which is also known as cryoablation, is sometimes referred to by some doctors as cryotherapy. By Cryotherapy, we mean the stand-up cold chambers where you might pay upwards of $50 to freeze yourself for about three minutes at -240°F.
Even more tolerable than submersion in cold water, refrigeration spas are facilities where you can hang out in a walk-in freezer for a less extreme approach to cold therapy. These will hopefully become more common as a safer, more practical, and less expensive alternative to nitrogen cryotherapy. uscryotherapy.com
at home are growing in popularity and more folks are doing them on a daily basis. The suggestion is to take an ordinary hot shower, then shut off the hot water for a cold therapy finish. Allowing a shock of cold to hit you in the shower can instantly (but temporarily) ease or erase your pain for hours. A heavy blast of cold water is a simple pain eraser for both back pain and flu pain!
Ice Therapy Machines
are portable chilling systems with liquid-cooled cold therapy pads which can be rented, mainly for post-surgery recovery.
Cold Compression Therapy
combines the benefits of cold therapy and compression to provide optimal results for pain and swelling relief over clumsy application of ice packs. powerplay.us
a highly localized intense cold treatment which uses a hand-held device for non-invasive and drug-free pain treatment.
The ioverao treatment works by applying targeted cold to a peripheral nerve. A precise cold zone is formed under the skin – cold enough to immediately prevent the nerve from sending pain signals without causing damage to surrounding structures. The effect on the nerve is temporary, providing pain relief until the nerve regenerates and function is restored. The effect of this treatment is immediate and can last beyond ninety (90) days.
The purported benefits of cold therapy
There’s no faster way to jump-start your mindbody awareness system into fully awake mode than to experience cold showers in the morning! Unfortunately, the effectiveness of a cold shower is useless if your cold water isn’t frigid or if your water pressure isn’t blasting!
A casual search online will reward you with anecdotal lists of cold therapy benefits which include: strengthening your willpower, improving your emotional resilience, reducing stress, and increase alertness; improving your skin and hair, stimulating weight loss, increasing testosterone in men, boosting fertility for men, improving circulation, improving your immunity, and draining your lymphatic system (enhancing your body’s detoxification). (https://www.menprovement.com/benefits-of-cold-showers/).
Whether or not cold therapy will help you has as much to do with your feelings about it as anything. If you expect relief from the heat, cold, or alternating heat and cold, then the chances are that you will experience it. While scientific evidence of cold therapy as having long-term therapeutic value remains elusive (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3766664/), the consensus among those who experience cold therapy is that they would severely miss it if it were somehow no longer available.
It’s entirely up to you to experiment with different forms of Therapeutic Cold to see if any work for your situation. There are many changes which occur inside our body, nervous system and brain when exposed to a sudden shock of cold water. The basic concept is that everything contracts and slows down: our muscle fibers contract, metabolism slows down, nerve impulses slow down, and circulation becomes restricted.
Cold makes us feel alive!
Cold therapy relieves stress and tension
Cold therapy is still one of the most-often recommended treatments for injury and post-surgery swelling and pain. But the benefits of cold are there to be had by everyone, not just the injured, sick, or drunken.
If you can stand it, cold works well to get you into rapid communication with your body. Part of the appeal is the fact cold slaps us awake and really makes us sit up and pay attention. A dunk into a cold pool can grab you by the shoulders and put you back into command of that body of yours. Same with a cold shower!
Whole body cryotherapy was initially intended for use in a clinical setting to treat patients with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryotherapy). For some folks, it can relieve tension, stress, chronic pain, and anxiety.
Contrast hydrotherapy: heat and cold
Deep breathing is about all you can do while sitting in an ice bath or standing in a cryotherapy chamber. Shivering might be part of the equation, but if you are intent on focusing your mind and breathing deeply, then you can get to a place where your body finally relaxes.
Alternating heat therapy together with cold treatment is called “contrast hydrotherapy.” Cold is considered to reduce blood flow and slow healing, while heat is found to increase blood flow and speed healing. Repeating such widely contrasting temps provides a cardiovascular workout.
A few spas in large metropolitan areas often offer both hot tubs and cold plunge tubs for temperature-contrast water therapy. There are several places around Denver, Colorado, which offer both hot therapy and cold therapy (see list below). Alternating between rapid heating and cooling by hopping in a 104°F hot tub for ten minutes, followed by a 50°F cold tub for ten minutes, probably provides the best balance of extremes of both worlds. Contrast hydrotherapy will help ease tension, pain, and anxiety fast!
This combination of therapies is where you start to get the most traction towards both a body and mind connection and a release of tension and trigger points (pain-causing micro-spasms). If combining cold and heat works to facilitate autonomous injury recovery, then there’s no reason it can’t also be used to help promote your conscious self-healing.
Contrast hydrotherapy is something you should try at least once. When you do, chances are you’ll feel better after 60 minutes than you have felt all month! As long as you are there to heal yourself, and work out your kinks, you’ll be amazed at how well this classic combo makes your bodymind feel.
THE SEASONAL ADVANTAGE OF WINTER IN NORTHERN LATITUDES
Cold winters may just help us live longer.
One reason cold therapy is so practical is that it’s pretty cheap by comparison to other forms of treatment. Plus, there are so many ways you can apply cold or immerse yourself in the cold without having to pay a dime. A bag of frozen peas works great for icing your neck, and using an ace bandage to wrap a bag of frozen peas around your knee is pretty economical. Ice packs, gel packs, ice vests and ice therapy boots are all tools you can have at home.
While one session of cryotherapy at a physical therapist’s office might cost you upwards of $75, a visit to a local recreation center or spa with a cold plunge pool will only cost between $7-$20.
Winter months are the most economical for cold therapy because cryotherapy is FREE! You can put on your shorts, hat, and gloves, then walk around in the falling snow while it’s 28°F outside for about fifteen minutes and you’ll experience almost all the same benefits as paying someone for cryotherapy service. Or lay in the snow and numb your entire back and erase chronic muscle pain in just ten minutes (if you can tolerate it)!
COLD THERAPY IN DENVER
Locations with BOTH Hot Therapy and Cold Therapy
- Havana Health Spa | http://havanahealthsauna.com/
- Denver Sports Recovery | https://denversportsrecovery.com/facilities/hot-and-cold-tubs/
- The (Exclusive) Denver Athletic Club | https://www.denverathleticclub.cc/
- Chuze Fitness Clubs | https://chuzefitness.com/gym-locations/co/south-monaco/
- Red Rocks Spa | http://www.redrocks-spa.com/spa-services/
- Innovative Body Recovery | https://www.innovativebodyrecovery.com/recovery-services/whole-body-cryotherapy/
- Synergy Cryotherapy (Parker) | http://www.synergycryotherapy.com/
- 5280 Cryo Recovery Clinics | http://5280cryo.com/
- Mile High Recovery (Aurora) | http://www.cryotherapyaurora.com/
- Broadway Cryotherapy | https://www.broadwaycryo.com/
- Rocky Mountain Cryotherapy | http://rockymountaincryotherapy.com/
- Denver Sports Recovery | https://denversportsrecovery.com/
- Cryofusion (Boulder) | http://www.cryofusionco.com/
- Sports Medicine Littleton | http://www.sportsmedicinelittleton.com/
- Complete Cryospa (Highlands Ranch) | http://www.completecryospa.com/
- Castle Rock Cryocare | http://castlerockcryotherapy.com/
Ice Machine Portable Cold Therapy Rentals
Learn even more about Cold Therapy Methods
The Benefits of Being Cold
Cold Showers Lead to Fewer Sick Days
Havard Business Review
Cryotherapy: My 3 Minutes at -300 Degrees
Researchers Warm to Effectiveness of Ice Baths
A Recovery Ice Bath Isn’t (Always) Such A Good Idea
When To Ice, When To Use Heat Instead
RICE: The End of An Ice Age
Electric Whole-Body Walk-In Cryotherapy vs. Liquid Nitrogen Chamber
Ben Greenfield Fitness – The Ultimate Guide to DIY Cold Thermogenesis
Tony Robbins starts each day by plunging into freezing cold water after an extra-hot sauna — and research suggests it’s a healthy habit