The other day while walking through JFK, I saw a man getting what looked like a smudging treatment on his upper back (smudging = space cleansing via burning herbs). My suspicion that burning herbs couldn’t be an airport sanctioned activity was confirmed after I did some investigating and discovered he was getting a localized cryotherapy treatment! Pro athletes have been into Cryotherapy for a while, but now this cold therapy is cropping up everywhere, which means you are owed a rundown! Read on for the Cryotherapy pros and cons to see if it’s worth the fanfare.
WTF is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a 2-3 minute long treatment that uses exposure to super cold temperatures to reduce inflammation and repair damaged body tissue. Sometimes called “frost” or “cold” therapy, Cryotherapy happens when liquid nitrogen sprayed into the air rapidly decreases the air temperature surrounding your body (up to -240°F). Athletes have long used ice baths as a way to get a similar healing effects after strenuous activity.
Potential Cryotherapy Benefits
The theory is that by quickly and dramatically lowering body temperature, our bodies believe we’re going to freeze to death, so blood rushes to protect our organs and our immune and circulatory systems go bananas (in a good way). Immediately after the treatment, blood rushes back to the extremities along with a surge of endorphins. Although science has yet to confirm the bevy of enthusiastic testimonials, cryotherapy is not harmful (when done by a reputable establishment with properly trained staff). Benefits people report from Cryotherapy include:
- Reduced inflammation
- Decreased chronic pain
- Tissue repair
- Ward off jet lag
- Fewer wrinkles and increased collagen production.
What to Expect / My Experience
- To be cold AF – No avoiding this one.
- Strip down – Once in my cryo room, I was instructed to strip down to my skivvies and don a pair of gloves, socks and shoes that look like a mix between a slipper and a water moccasin. They also provided a towel as it’s imperative you’re bone dry because freezing sweat = bad.
- Looks like an experimental science chamber – The cyro chamber is a giant cylinder with a padded interior and open top. It’s ready in less than a minute and is characterized by freezing fog cascading over the top and down the sides (super cozy sounding, right?).
- Keep yourself moving and distracted – Once the tech started the machine, she was very informative and delightfully chatty: letting me know how important it is to keep your head up and out of the cold, how long it had been, how long I had left, and gave a few pointers to help the time pass. I jogged in place, jogged while turning clockwise, then counter clockwise, and really tried to keep up the chatting. I even tried a bout of pranayama breath of fire, but damn, it was frigid!
- It’s damn near impossible to last past 2 minutes – I couldn’t make it the full three minutes because once I hit minute two I was convinced my leg hairs were actually freezing off. Plus, my skin was so cold it was burning…which is not so pleasant. The cyro tech reassured me that even she’s only made it to three minutes 1 or 2 times – which I appreciated, even if it was a white lie.
- Energized afterwards – I immediately felt an up tick in energy and wellbeing, like that lovely buzz after a good workout. Soon after stepping out of the chamber my legs regained feeling, although a dull chill remained for about 30 more minutes. My increased energy was accompanied by a delicious clarity and intense focus, which lasted the rest of the day – I even skipped my occasional afternoon americano.
The Take Away
I’m personally not going to do it again but recognize Cryotherapy for its potential usefulness in the medical world and for professional athletes. If you want to get the benefits of cryo without the price tag, dump a bunch of ice into a cold water and sit in it. As for this already cold-prone gal, I will stick to the occasional infrared sauna when I’m looking for a healing boost!
As is true with all health regimens, use common sense and consult your doctor if you are pregnant, have unique health concerns or are taking prescription medications.
Where to get it?
Search yelp for a Cryo center near you! Or if you’re traveling keep an eye out for XpressSpa, that place you’ve seen in just about every major airport. They just added XpressCryo facials (and upper back treatments, apparently).
Image by Cryo Science Australia