Cold therapy is commonly used as a procedure to relieve pain symptoms, particularly in inflammatory diseases, injuries and overuse symptoms. A peculiar form of cold therapy (or stimulation) was proposed 30 years ago for the treatment of rheumatic diseases. The therapy, called whole-body cryotherapy (WBC), consists of exposure to very cold air that is maintained at −110°C to −140°C in special temperature-controlled cryochambers, generally for 2 minutes. WBC is used to relieve pain and inflammatory symptoms caused by numerous disorders, particularly those associated with rheumatic conditions, and is recommended for the treatment of arthritis, fibromyalgia and ankylosing spondylitis. In sports medicine, WBC has gained wider acceptance as a method to improve recovery from muscle injury.
According to the available literature, WBC is not harmful or detrimental in healthy subjects. The treatment does not enhance bone marrow production and could reduce the sport-induced haemolysis. WBC induces oxidative stress, but at a low level. Repeated treatments are apparently not able to induce cumulative effects; on the contrary, adaptive changes on antioxidant status are elicited — the adaptation is evident where WBC precedes or accompanies intense training.