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Can Cryotherapy Help
Those Suffering from Depression?

My personal experience with cryotherapy was like that of many others. I had heard claims for cryotherapy as a booster of energy levels and a mood elevator. As an athlete and coach, I search constantly for ways to increase the impact of training or to speed recovery. So it wasn’t out of character for me to test the claims for cryotherapy by agreeing to put myself in a chamber that would expose my body to temperatures on the order of minus 200 degrees. The session lasted just a couple minutes, but the result was immediate. I emerged feeling a sort of euphoria and with increased energy; nor were these feelings just the result of getting back into the warmth after coming out of the chamber. I could tell there was more to it. Since then, I have continued with those treatments, and they have helped me a great deal weathering the daily life of a training athlete and parent with four young children. The euphoria I felt got me to thinking. Could cryotherapy help people suffering from depression?

So I went on the web and discovered a research paper in Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis, published in 2008. (The link presents the paper in English; the original study was done in Poland.) The study included 60 subjects from ages 18 to 65, who had depressive and anxiety disorders. They were being treated at an outpatient psychiatric clinic and were diagnosed according to the World Health Organization ICD-10 criteria (PDF). The subjects were divided into the study group (26 patients) and the control group (34). All patients continued to receive the treatment and medications prescribed by their psychiatrists. But the subjects in the study group, in addition to their regular treatment, made daily visits to a cryogenic chamber for 2-3-minute sessions. Each had 15 treatments (i.e., every weekday for three weeks). Everyone in the study was scored for severity of symptoms by a well-accepted test (Hamilton’s Anxiety Rating Scale) at various points in the study. At the conclusion of the study, “A significant improvement, taken to be a decrease of at least 50% from the baseline severity of symptoms, was observed in almost half of the study group and only in one case in the control group.” In other words, nearly half the people treated with cryotherapy had a marked decrease in their suffering from depression.

Yes, it is a small study, and yes, the authors’ primary conclusion was that “more study is needed.” On the other hand, it’s hard to argue with the experience of those patients whose suffering was alleviated. All over the web, you can find testimonials for cryotherapy as a treatment for those suffering from depression, but skeptics can dismiss those testimonials as “anecdotal.” I frankly don’t know if cryotherapy can help your depression, but I can tell you that I’ve experienced its ability to enhance both mood and energy, and there’s also a scientific study out there testifying to the experience of measurably depressed people who have felt the same effects. If you’re depressed, cryotherapy might not help you. But there’s a distinct chance that it will. Talk with your physician and your therapist about it, and if they think you are a good candidate for whole-body cryotherapy, book a session at Peak Recovery and Health Center.

Photo: “Man Lonely in Park” from Pixabay.