Whole-Body Cryotherapy (WBC) Can Heal Muscle Soreness

Are your muscles sore? Probably. In 2003, 15.9% of people aged 15 or older participated in sports. By 2015, that figure was 19.5%. These numbers are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produced a report on sports participation (link to PDF) in May 2017. The U.S. is changing from a nation of couch potatoes to a nation of athletes. Our transition could be eased by Whole-Body Cryotherapy (WBC).

You were probably surprised the first time your sports activity made you sore, but it is supposed to do that! According to Dr. Gabe Mirkin, editor of the free online Health and Fitness Newsletter, “The good soreness that makes you stronger is called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and is caused by microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. When muscles are damaged, they produce healing prostaglandins that cause muscles to become bigger and stronger than before they were exercised vigorously.” Dr. Mirkin, in fact, recommends that you establish a regular routine of exercising vigorously enough to feel sore afterward and then do easy workouts until the soreness goes away. You can then exercise vigorously again. Lather, rinse, repeat. These bouts of repeated soreness are evidence of the performance gains you will make as you acquire strength and fitness. But if you must curtail exercise until the soreness goes away, it means that healing time is the single most significant limitation in improving sports performance. In other words, the faster you heal, the faster you gain strength and fitness. Fortunately, you can speed recovery with WBC.

For a long time, it was thought that DOMS is just something we have to live with. It’s a cost of doing business for serious athletes. There is, however, a small but growing body of research showing the judicious application of extremely cold temperatures can provide some relief from muscle soreness even while it speeds muscle healing. A paper published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports in December 2014 reported on a clinical test of two groups of participants. Both groups did five sets of 20 drop jumps (an exercise in which you step off an elevated surface, land on your feet, then jump vertically to a preset height) with two-minute rests between sets. Ten minutes after the exercise, the participant went into a head-out cryo-chamber (a process we at Peak Recovery & Health Center call whole-body cryotherapy or WBC) for three minutes. The control group got three minutes of room temperature (69-70 degrees F) and the test group got three minutes of extreme cold (-230 degrees F). Researchers measured muscle recovery by assessing the force participants were able to apply to a task with their muscles. They made these measurements at five intervals, ranging from immediately to 96 hours later. Each measurement showed an increase in force as participants’ muscles healed, but the population treated with extreme cold improved more and faster, and the difference actually became more pronounced as time passed. 

Coaches and athletes have treated muscle soreness with ice for years, but they were just seeking to numb the soreness. WBC doesn’t numb anything, and it’s nowhere near as uncomfortable as an ice bath. Book a WBC session at Peak Recovery & Health Center for the recovery period after your next intense workout. It takes three minutes, and we now have scientific proof it can get you back in action faster than just living with the soreness.

Image: “Muscles” from the book Myotomia Reformata by William Cowper. Part of the digital collection Anatomia 1522-1867 located at University of Toronto Library. Creative Commons license.