Cold therapy, also referred to as cryotherapy, is used by athletes, trainers and healthcare professionals to treat acute injuries and speed recovery. Use of cryotherapy can include ice packs, ice massage, or standing mostly naked in nitrogen-gas cryotherapy tanks at -240 degrees Fahrenheit, and is intended to reduce metabolic rate, inflammation, circulation, muscle spasms, and pain. (3)
Cold and pain cannot coexist within your nervous system. Not if the conditions are cold enough. It is also a proven fact that pain requires your attention for you to notice it.(4) When the cold is extreme, two primary things happen to you. 1) you cannot help but shift your awareness and attention to the cold and away from your pain, and 2) your body has an extreme reaction to extreme cold.
If the weather, water or air you expose yourself to is sufficiently cold, as it usually is with the Wim Hof Method, your body might treat it as an emergency and start procedures that would save your life if done under other circumstances. Since you won’t be staying in the extreme cold long enough for hypothermia to begin, the action of using this modality exercises most if not all of your internal systems. Done correctly, this is incredibly healthy activity could add years to your life.(5)
When you remove your body from extreme cold conditions, especially if you have been laying on snow or submerged in glacial-like ice water, your skin will become flushed red. The color indicates your surface capillaries are opening up to warm your skin, where moments before they were constricted to restrict blood flow to your extremities.