WHAT IS CRYOTHERAPY?
It is a form of cold, whole body medical therapy, similar to an ice bath. However, instead of using water it involves liquid nitrogen that is released into a chamber. From your neck down, your body is exposed to very low, sub zero temperatures up to around -140 to -170ºC. The idea is that the chamber chills the outer layer of your skin to initiate an autonomic nervous system response.
“Initially conceived in 1978 by a rheumatologist in Japan, Cryotherapy was used as a way to offer pain relief and alternative therapy to patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Patients began experiencing a reduction in soreness and joint pain after being exposed to decreased temperatures in the Cryosauna. This resulted in a release of endorphins which leads to reduced sensitivity to pain.” (Vancity Cryo Bar)
BENEFITS OF CRYOTHERAPY
Many of us learn early on that when we injure ourselves, to ice the injury in order to reduce inflammation and decrease the pain. Ice baths have long been well known in the sports and athletic industry to help with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and thus faster recovery from exercise.
Research involving this new form of cryo/cold therapy is still slowly emerging as it becomes more and more popular. Nevertheless, the following is a list of potential benefits:
– Reduces pain and inflammation
– Improves fat metabolism (burning up to 800 calories per session)
– Improves mood and focus
– Enhances athletic performance through the aid in muscle recovery, such as reducing pain, swelling and muscle spasms
– Improve circulation and immune system
“The refreshing and energizing feeling from the endorphin and enkephalin releases can last up to eight hours and most people experience a sound night’s sleep. In most cases, five regular treatments can increase athletic performance, alleviate chronic pain, injuries, and many medical conditions, while promoting weight loss and beautiful skin.” (Progressive Sports Medicine)
Believe me, I hate being cold so I was less than enthused to the idea of freezing my body for 3 minutes. However, when I was given the opportunity to give it a try, I said why not. I’m all for trying new things because you just never know until you try! My first experience wasn’t as bad as I thought at all. It was only the last minute in which the cold set in. It really helps when you are distracted through the power of conversation and some good tunes.
You would think the more times I enter the chamber for a cryo session, the more bearable it gets. Unfortunately this is not the case. Depending on the day, I usually feel the most cold and numbness on my elbows, my arms and my legs. There are sessions in which 3 minutes feels like a lifetime, then there are other days in which it goes by incredibly quick.
Since my initial experience, I have had more than a handful of cryo sessions and I do have to say, the more sessions I do, especially when they are consistent and close together, the more and greater benefits I feel. The most noticeable benefit is my metabolism. I get so much hungrier afterwards now. Beyond this benefit however, it is difficult to pinpoint the cause and effect. There are endless of networks, domino effects, and many more parts to the equation, so I cannot say that it is because of the cryotherapy that has done this or impacted that. This goes back to my belief of the holistic approach. There are numerous of integrated and interconnected factors that is involved and can impact our bodies and our health. I believe cryotherapy is one option among many to help with recovery and healing our bodies. Not everything works for everyone, and some things work better for one person over another. As a result, participating in many acts of recovery and improving our bodies such as with stretching, foam rolling, eating the right and healthy foods, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, engaging in other stress-relieving and stress management activities and techniques will together provide an even greater benefit and outcome.
Nevertheless, if you are curious and interested, and is willing to spend that extra money, I say go give it a try. I have heard first hand some immediate benefits as well as people who live by it on a longer term basis. Simply do a google search to see if there is a cryo bar or studio near you. Definitely inquire more information and ask them more questions. For those who live in Vancouver, I recommend Vancity Cryo Bar which is located downtown.
If you have any more questions regarding my personal experience and my thoughts, please leave a comment below. If you’ve tried it, I would also love to hear your experience as well!