For several thousand years, cold is used in medicine to fight against pain and inflammation. For several decades, there has been a growing craze for cold-based treatments, in particular those which consist of placing subjects for a few minutes in rooms or cabins where the temperature can drop below -110 ° C: we speak whole body cryotherapy. Originally intended for high-level athletes in order to prevent or treat muscle pain after exercise, this practice is now offered in the context of inflammatory or neurological diseases, or even outside any pathological context in thalassotherapy, for example.
To treat stress, insomnia, rheumatism, muscle and joint pain… several benefits are attributed, which encourages more and more patients to get started. But last March, the Marne senator Yves Détraigne wished to draw the attention of the Minister of Health to this subject. The latter wished to recall that currently, cryotherapy and cryolipolysis are not framed, which means that “practitioners” are not obliged to declare adverse events, are not checked and are not subject to any sanction in the event of a problem. “No formal training is provided to specialists who carry out cold therapy their business, ”he wrote.
Several side effects reported
Following various reports of incidents, the High Authority for Health clarified, in a report from July 2018, that the risks were indeed present with regard to the cryolipolysis for aesthetic purposes. Here is an Inserm report also warns against the recourse to cryotherapy. After analyzing the scientific literature published on this subject and the testimonies of experts or patients, this report concludes that the results in favor of a positive effect of cryotherapyare modest and measuredand only in the very short term. Not to mention the methodological quality of the studies which “leaves much to be desired, which should lead to the positive effects reported being put into perspective all the more. ”
The researchers therefore warn of the fact that “in any event, cryotherapy can in no way claim to effectively treat cancers or other severe somatic pathologies ”. Whole-body cryotherapy also posesgenuine security concerns because of reported side effects : local burns, headaches, chronic cold urticaria, digestive intolerance … A dissection of the abdominal aorta has even been described after 5 sessions. “It could be a triggered or accelerated cardiovascular complication but the data are insufficient to demonstrate or deny the causality of cryotherapy », Write the researchers.
When will there be official supervision?
Finally, the report concludes that it is essential to better study and assess the whole body cryotherapy and precisely define the conditions of use (duration protocol, intensity, modality, frequency of use). “For a practice likely to interest more and more people, measures aimed at complying with the conditions of feasibility and safety, guaranteeing personal protection using this type of practice must be prioritized and implemented, ”he concludes. The consumer defense association UFC-Que Choisir echoes this report, published just after its own investigation carried out in about thirty centers, also warning against this practice.
In its conclusions, the organization also pleads for better supervision from the health authorities. But the difficulty is that the statuscryotherapy cabins varies according to the claims of the managers. If the field of well-being, sports recovery or aesthetics is stated, the controls do not apply as much as if the claims relate to the therapeutic field. It is then a medical device. However, “recent news has shown that the control over these materials was insufficient”, he believes before concluding: “While the practice is growing considerably, the health authorities have not yet demonstrated. no intention to frame it. ”