Cryotherapy accelerates regeneration

Prof. Dr. Verena Briner, FRCP
Prof. Dr. Verena Briner, FRCP
Wellness & Relax
Life expectancy continuously was rising during the last hundred years. Improvement of the quality of the food, hygienic regulations by the government and modern medicine were the major contributors to this development. However, during the last decade a reversal of this positive trend occurred. 

In the early days, infection most often ended lethal while these days cardio-vascular diseases are the ‘major killer’. Scientific investigations elucidated a variety of risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis of the blood vessels particularly of the heart and the brain to cause heart attack and stroke. These are high blood pressure, overweight, diabetes, stress, hereditary predisposition and as a very important risk factor physical inactivity. The last years however, lifestyle developed from the good to the bad. Good news - clinical studies show that this process still may be reversible.

 

Regular physical activity is beneficial. It decreases cardio-vascular mortality and postpones or may even prevent the development of atherosclerosis. Women and men engaging in regular fitness training demonstrate lower blood pressure, higher insulin sensitivity of the fatty tissue, the muscles and inner layer of the blood vessels. Thus, the metabolism needs less insulin, which is an advantage in respect to the lipid profile in the blood, resulting in a lower HDL concentration. In addition, physically active people demonstrate lower inflammatory mediators in the blood. From animal studies, exercise has been found to reduce the development of calcification of the aortic valve and the progression of degenerative diseases of the valve, this in parallel to the drop in inflammatory cell recruitment. Positive effect of endurance training 3-5x per week is dose dependent. However, excessive physical activity may cause damage to the body.

Physical activity activates the sympathetic nervous system, stimulates adrenalin and noradrenalin release and additional vasoactive substances in the blood, which affect metabolism and the circulation of the heart and lung and the blood vessels. Regular physical activity stimulates adaptive mechanisms to increase the muscular mass and enhances contractile function. In contrast, muscle mass increase resulting from high blood pressure or aortic valve disease leads to a loss of contractile function and in the long term to heart failure and may provoke electrical instability (arrhythmia). Regular exercise can activate inactive, good genes and thus stimulate protective processes in the muscle cells of the heart. 

It is never too late to start regular physical activity! Scientific studies demonstrate that a middle aged population so far with a sedentary lifestyle, adhering to a two-year exercise program had a reduction in the heart stiffness. Regular exercise reduces cardio-vascular mortality significant! There exist endurance and strength training. In addition, intensity, time (duration) and type of activity are differentiated. Strength training focus on repetition and endurance training on heart rate, effort and oxygen uptake. It is recommended to integrate at least 150 minutes of moderate activity in a week’s schedule.

In sports, it is well known that athletes like to enhance performance and reduce regeneration time (therapeutic target). Whole body cryotherapy is highly effective in this context. Treatment in a cryotherapy chamber, such as the IceLab in the Waldhotel Bürgenstock (-110° centigrade), has found increasing use in competitive sports during the phase of training and during the competition. Physical activity causes stress to the body and subsequent effects on blood level of hormones and other mediators such as cytokines. Whole body cryotherapy reduces this reaction, in particular in the muscles. Thus, performance can be optimize. After a training session, cryotherapy accelerates regeneration. Similar results have been shown in leisure sports. In the Waldhotel cryotherapy in the IceLab starts with 20 seconds exposure to -10°C, thereafter 20 seconds -60°C and finally -110°C for up to a maximum of 3 minutes. Whole body cryotherapy is not only enhancing physical but also psychological performance, and has a refreshing effect and improves sleep.

 

The old Greek already used very cold water for treating inflamed body parts. In addition to the classical scientific treatment, cryotherapy is well known for pain relieve in a variety of rheumatic diseases (polyarthritis, spondylarthritis, etc.), but also degenerative joint diseases (osteoarthritis) and chronic pain (fibromyalgia). In the blood, the concentration of inflammatory mediators decrease and patients can reduce the pain killer intake. Improvement may occur in patients with tinnitus, impaired sleep and burn out. Immunomodulation may be beneficial in the prevention of flue.

Regular physical activity not only improves muscular fitness, it enhances also general wellbeing. The old Greek already described this effect. These days, scientific studies support their clinical findings. Regular trained muscles stabilize the joints and thus diminish subluxation and damage of the joints and maybe even falls. Performing sports requires energy to nourish the muscles and thus, can support a weight loss program. During physical activity, the release of hormones and cytokines into the blood is stimulated and has a beneficial effect on mitochondrial energy metabolism, protein synthesis, but also brain function and psyche to improve wellbeing and mood. 

Thus, let’s start regular physical activity!