As you know, if you’ve been following these little missives for a while, I’m going through a patch of nagging little injuries. Pulled muscles, shin splints, foot issues, that sort of thing. Nothing serious, believe me when I say I realize this. But just a series of things that have messed with my fitness schedule, man. So lately I’ve noticed that a new business has sprung up in my neighborhood. They have this nifty little sign advertising cryotherapy.
Have I heard of it, yeah. I mostly have heard that college & pro athletes have used it to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery time from minor injuries. I’m not in college, barely professional and not terribly athletic, but I am curious, so I took a look at what this cryotherapy actually is. Here’s what I found;
The first WBC (Whole Body Cryotherapy) chamber was built in Japan in the late 1970s It is a procedure that exposes the body to temperatures colder than negative 150 to 200 degrees F for two to four minutes. While it’s been used to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis in Japan since the late 1970s, it’s only been used in Western countries for the past few decades, primarily to alleviate muscle soreness for elite athletes.
Some people actually get cryotherapy facials, which apply cold to the face only. Others use a cryotherapy wand to target specific areas, such as a painful joint. But most people use the term cryotherapy to refer to whole-body cryotherapy. It’s a non-medical treatment in a spa or similar setting.
When it comes to benefits, there are a lot of opinions, and stories, but there haven’t been a lot of studies done nor hard scientific evidence. But some of the anecdotal benefits include;
- Pain relief and muscle healing
Cryotherapy can help with muscle pain, as well as some joint and muscle disorders, such as arthritis It may also promote faster healing of athletic injuries. Doctors have long recommended using ice packs on injured and painful muscles. Doing so may increase blood circulation after the ice pack is removed, promoting healing and pain relief. A study published in 2000 found that cryotherapy offered temporary relief from the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. People who used cryotherapy also reported less pain. Another study in 2017 also supports the benefits of cryotherapy for relieving muscle pain and speeding healing. However, the study found that cold water immersion was more effective than whole-body cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy alone will not cause weight loss, but it could support the process. In theory, being cold forces the body to work harder to stay warm. Some cryotherapy providers claim that a few minutes of cold can increase metabolism all day. But eventually, they claim, people no longer feel cold because their metabolism has adjusted and increased in response to the cold temperature.
Inflammation is one way the immune system fights infection. Sometimes the immune system becomes overly reactive. The result is chronic inflammation, which is linked to health problems, such as cancer, diabetes, depression, dementia and arthritis. As such, reducing inflammation could also improve overall health and reduce the risk of numerous chronic ailments. Some studies suggest that cryotherapy can reduce inflammation. However, most research has been done on rats, so to confirm the data, more research is needed on people. But if you know a rat with inflammation issues, well, you know…
Improving symptoms of eczema
The chronic inflammatory skin condition known as eczema can cause intensely itchy patches of dry skin. A 2008 study of people with eczema had participants stop using eczema medications. They then tried cryotherapy. Many of them saw improvements in their eczema symptoms, though some complained of frostbite on small areas of the skin.
Eczema or frostbite? Choose your poison.
Treating Migraine Headaches
Targeted cryotherapy that focuses on the neck may help prevent migraine headaches. In a 2013 study, researchers applied cryotherapy to the necks of people who had migraines. The treatment reduced but did not eliminate their pain.
Cryotherapy isn’t safe for everyone. The treatment shouldn’t be used by pregnant women or people with various health conditions, including severe hypertension and various heart problems, warns Cryohealthcare. Children under 18 need parental consent. Pregnant women, children, people with severe high blood pressure and people with heart conditions should not try cryotherapy. Having a cryotherapy treatment for any longer than a few minutes can be fatal. It’s recommended that participants should time each session to ensure it is not longer than the recommended time frame.
A person must never sleep during cryotherapy.
-150 to 200 degrees
Thanks for the warning, doc.
So, my experience. I walked in with the intention of doing it, evaluating the experience, and unless something really heinous occurred, setting up sessions for maybe a month. If after a month I think it’s worth it, I can make it a part of my routine. If not, I threw away the equivalent of a couple of first date dinners. Like I haven’t bought dinner for a woman and experienced extreme cold before.
But I digress.
So I walk in, with my credit card in my hand.
In my hand.
Advice to salespeople everywhere. If they walk in with their credit card in their hand, you really don’t have to go into your whole sales speil.
But she did.
Tried upselling. Tried to tell me about the other services they provide. All of it. I kept moving the credit card in my hand, hoping it would reflect the light into her eyes and catch her attention. But no, she had memorized her pitch and dammit, she was going to give it.
So there was that.
Then, when she paused to breathe, I cut in with “I’d like to go ahead and do a session today. Could that happen?” That actually seemed to puzzle her for a second, then she said “Oh, ah, yes, that would be fine.”
So she shows me the changing room. I needed to strip down to my shorts ( I had worn gym shorts under my pants) and put on their gloves, heavy socks and crocs. I had an issue with the crocs, but only as a style thing, and I was wearing gym shorts, gloves and heavy socks, so the crocs didn’t really mess with my look at that moment. I then had to put a robe on, get into the chamber and hand the robe over the chamber wall to her. I said “ do we really need to do the robe thing? I’m not worried about you seeing me in gym shorts, etc.” But those are the rules, so I had to contort my body in this small space, remove the robe and hand it over the wall. Done.
The experience itself wasn’t a problem. It was 3 minutes, and she said that a lot of people don’t make it the full 3 minutes their first time.
So, this is a competition now.
Yeah, it was cold, and I’m usually not good with cold, but it’s 3 minutes.
I’ve done a lot less pleasant things for 3 minutes.
It’s been a few days. Have I noticed anything yet? Not really. But I’m going back tonight, and twice a week for a month. I’ll let you know how it goes.
But for now, enjoy your 4th of July holiday! BBQ, fireworks, the beach, whatever you do with whomever you do it with. Embrace the good times my friends. Embrace them with both hands.