Today I wanted to discuss the article entitled “Is Cryotherapy Appropriate in Lipedema?” It’s written by Dr. Ayla Clark, a naturopath practicing in the northeast of the US, and she posted this on her website.
This article discusses cryotherapy and explains how it could be beneficial for managing lipedema and its symptoms.
What is Cryotherapy?
Whole Body Cryotherapy is a process in which you are placed in a very cold chamber (well below zero) for two to four minutes. It’s a popular treatment used in sports medicine and it has been touted to have some benefits that can be helpful for certain medical conditions as well.
Cryolipolysis and Cryotherapy
There’s also a procedure called Cryolipolysis, a fat-reduction procedure that includes CoolSculpting. Maybe you’ve heard of this before.
Dr. Clark cautions women with lipedema that CoolSculpting may not be appropriate for lipedema because this procedure entails intentionally damaging fat cells. This places an additional burden on the lymphatic system to remove all of the dead tissue and debris. Unfortunately, many women with lipedema have some degree of lymphatic impairment associated with lipedema. On the other hand, because cryotherapy does not damage fat cells, overwhelming an impaired lymphatic system is not an issue.
Are there benefits to Cryotherapy?
Although there’s a lot of confusing information out there about cryotherapy, there is some indication that this procedure may be beneficial for lipedema. But because there has been no research on cryotherapy and lipedema specifically, we can’t know for sure what the impacts will be.
Dr. Clark describes several benefits of cryotherapy discovered in research on athletes and individuals with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and/or obesity. These benefits include thermogenesis, protective effects against certain conditions, such as atherosclerosis and heart disease, and reduction of inflammation.
Because cryotherapy can in effect mimic exercise, it has the ability to help transform less metabolically active white adipose tissue into a more metabolically active brown adipose tissue. White adipose tissue is primarily used for fat storage and is very resistant to being burned up for energy. Brown adipose tissue, on the other hand, is easily accessed for energy and generates heat. Dr. Clark proposes that because lipedema fat is white adipose tissue, changing some into brown adipose tissue using this procedure may have a positive effect on lipedema fat as well as addressing obesity if it is also present.
Protective Effects on Common Comorbidities
Women with lipedema commonly have symptoms such as capillary fragility (that contributes to easy bruising) and aortic stiffness, both of which may indicate a risk for cardiovascular disease. In several studies, cryotherapy has been found to reduce plaque, which is a risk factor associated with cardiovascular disease.
Reduction of Inflammation
Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of cryotherapy on markers and symptoms of inflammation. Dr. Clark reports on the results in one study of women with fibromyalgia. Participants who received cryotherapy had a significant improvement in pain, mood, and quality of life compared to controls. Because many symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with lipedema, Dr. Clark suggests that it may have a similar impact on women with lipedema.
Are there contraindications?
Cryotherapy does have some contraindications including hypothyroidism, which is fairly common in women with lipedema. This procedure should also be performed by trained professionals using proper techniques and safety procedures.
This paper is important for women with lipedema because we’re always in search of treatments and procedures that will help manage or reduce the symptoms. This procedure may be beneficial for you, but be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider first.