Cold sauna - process, effects and risks

Cold sauna - process, effects and risks

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Cold sauna - a very unusual term. What does cold have to do with saunas? This is a special form of whole-body cold application for the sporty, aesthetic and above all medical area. Other common names are ice sauna, ice bucket, cold chamber, cryosauna or cryosauna or cryotherapy. The word "cryo" comes from the Greek and means "frost".

Cold sauna - an overview

  • description: The cold sauna is a special application in the field of cryotherapy. It is a short-term physical therapy with a maximum of three minutes in which the body is exposed to a temperature of up to minus 160 degrees.
  • effect: The extreme cold stimulates the metabolism and circulation, among other things, it strengthens the immune system and releases endorphins, which increase well-being.
  • application areas are among other:
    • chronic pain,
    • mental illness,
    • Allergies,
    • Skin diseases such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis,
    • Performance increase and regeneration in sport,
    • Scar care
    • and skin tightening.
  • Contraindications: There are also a number of cases in which cryosauna should not be used, such as for high blood pressure and asthma. More on this in the chapter “Who is not allowed in the cold sauna?”.

History of the cryosauna

The cold has been used for many years, for example to stay fit, to toughen up, to counteract swelling or inflammation or in the event of injuries. Some people regularly take ice baths, go ice diving or rub themselves with snow.

The cold sauna has its origin in Japan. The Japanese rheumatologist Toshiro Yamauchi became known as the first “whole body therapist”. As early as 1978, he applied whole-body cryotherapy to treat rheumatoid arthritis at a temperature of minus 175 degrees Celsius.

Today's cold sauna differs from the cold chambers that were common at the time primarily in that it is no longer so ice cold. The temperatures in the real cold chambers were so extreme that it was extremely uncomfortable for the patients. Users also had to keep moving around in order to endure the cold at all. In contrast, a visit to today's cold sauna is a pleasant experience.

The cold sauna today

The cold sauna is like a ton. This is not very large and is open at the top, so that the head protrudes over the edge during the cooling process. The cold that prevails there is very dry, in the range of up to minus 160 degrees Celsius. It is generally very well tolerated and also perceived as pleasant. A process takes a maximum of three minutes.

Difference between cold chamber and cold sauna

The cold chamber and cold sauna are often used as synonyms, but there are differences between the two cooling applications. The cold chamber has a higher temperature, which is minus 110 degrees Celsius, and several patients can stay there at the same time.

The cold sauna, on the other hand, is the most modern type of whole-body cryotherapy. The temperature is even lower, namely at minus 160 degrees Celsius. The patient has his chamber to himself, it is open at the top and the head towers over the cold barrel. Although the cold chamber is at a higher temperature than the cold sauna, patients find the cooler use in the cryosauna more pleasant.

Effect of the cold sauna

The cold means an extreme situation for the body, to which it reacts holistically. However, no stress hormones are released, on the contrary, happiness hormones, the endorphins, which provide good mood and a feeling of well-being, but also have an analgesic effect.

No clothes are used in the cold sauna. The cold walkers wear underwear, possibly gloves, socks and slippers. The patients are monitored all the time, for a maximum of three minutes. If someone is not feeling well, he or she can leave the chamber immediately.

The massive cold stimulus activates the self-healing powers. The cold stimulus does not affect the inside of the body, but only the surface of the skin. The blood vessels constrict and the muscles relax. The formation of antibodies is increased, which boosts and strengthens the immune system.

For chronic pain, a regularity of several weeks with one to three sessions daily is recommended. Studies show that this significantly reduced patients' pain medication intake. Such therapy is possible in some rehab clinics.

After application, the following occurs: the tissue is better supplied with blood and supplied with oxygen. The metabolism is strongly driven and pollutants are eliminated. It should be mentioned that a session of three minutes burns around 600 to 700 kilocalories (kcal), which may be a pleasant side effect for those who want to lose weight.

Cold for health

The above-mentioned effect is particularly noticeable in the area of ​​health. The cold sauna is a popular form of therapy for chronic pain, especially in connection with rheumatism or arthrosis. It is also used for migraines, mental illnesses, tinnitus, autoimmune diseases, allergies, neurodermatitis, psoriasis and sleep disorders.

The positive effect has been proven in a large number of scientific studies, particularly for use in pain therapy. The goal is also to be able to reduce the amount of painkillers.

Cold for fitness

Competitive athletes have long discovered the cold sauna for themselves. It helps with muscle tension and muscular fatigue. Before training, the cold is used to increase performance, afterwards for regeneration. This significantly reduces the recovery phase.

Even for sports injuries such as a tennis elbow or tendon irritation, it is the method of choice for many active people.

Cold for the skin

As mentioned earlier, cryosauna can help with certain skin conditions. But it is also indispensable in aesthetics.

The cold treatment burns fat (around 700 kilocalories per application) and the complexion improves. The skin becomes firmer and smoother. For many users, the appetite is reduced after visiting the cold sauna, which can also affect the weight.

Other effects include better skin appearance with existing acne, a reduction in spider veins and improved scarring after surgery.

Who is not allowed in the cold sauna?

Usually everyone can use the application if they feel comfortable. Nevertheless, some diseases have to be clarified beforehand.

Blood pressure should not be higher than 160/90 mmHg, this is checked before going into the cold. Patients with acute cardiovascular diseases, such as cardiac arrhythmias, pacemakers or arterial circulatory disorders, are also not allowed in the cold sauna. The following contraindications can be listed:

  • Pregnancy,
  • Age under twelve years (young people under 18 years require the consent of their parents),
  • High blood pressure,
  • acute cardiovascular diseases,
  • trophic tissue disorders,
  • Cold allergy,
  • Panic attacks,
  • Pacemaker,
  • arterial circulatory disorders,
  • Bronchial asthma (when the cold worsens),
  • Raynaud's syndrome (Raynaud's disease),
  • epilepsy
  • and diabetes.


Some preparation is essential. Before entering the cold sauna, the entire body, skin and hair must be absolutely dry. Users are not allowed to sweat or wear wet swimwear. You should not have been in the normal sauna or thermal bath two hours before starting the application. The skin must not be creamed three hours beforehand. Before the patient enters the cold area, an informational discussion is carried out and the blood pressure checked. A medical check-up before the first course is generally recommended.

Thick clothes are not required in the cold sauna. On the contrary - during the cold process, only the sensitive parts of the body are covered by swimwear (or underwear), socks (possibly fur shoes), gloves and a face mask. A hat does not have to be, since the head protrudes from the cryosauna (the barrel is adjusted to the size of the user before starting). Jewelry and hearing aids must be removed. You are not alone all the time. The process is always monitored and can be stopped immediately in the event of ailments or if you feel unwell.

What happens after the cold application?

After the whole-body cold therapy, there is a slight reddening on the skin. Most users feel really comfortable afterwards. You feel a pleasant feeling of warmth. At the same time, physical and psychological energy increase. Some sweat afterwards. You may experience a short cough afterwards, but it does not last long and is not a cause for concern.

In order to have positive long-term results, the cold sauna should be carried out for a few weeks, at least three times a week. The best way to do this is for ten to 20 days, one to three times a day.

Cold sauna - advantages

The cold sauna has many advantages:

  • It is a non-invasive, gentle form of therapy.
  • One session increases the calorie consumption in such a way that a desired weight loss is possible.
  • After the cold period of a maximum of three minutes, the user is immediately ready for use again.
  • There is no pain and the application is almost free of side effects.
  • The first effects may appear after the first treatment.
  • Many patients leave the cold sauna feeling good.
  • The procedure detoxifies the body, improves blood circulation, ensures better sleep, reduces pain, activates happiness hormones and ensures a mental balance.


Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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