I am always in search of alternative therapies and recently tried the new craze, cryotherapy. Somehow, pigs were flying that day and Marwan also agreed to try it with me!
What is Cryotherapy
My definition: Standing in a tube with your head sticking out, having cold air blasted at you for 3 minutes.
Wikipedia’s definition: “This treatment involves exposing individuals to extremely cold dry air (below -100 °C) for two to four minutes.”
Why Would I Try This?
Whole Body Cryotherapy has numerous, unsubstantiated claims that I will not dive into, because there is no data behind it. However, there are a few, more logical claims that intrigued me. First is pain management. I hate prescribing medicine to cover up pain so if this could help, I am all for it. Second, recovery after exercise/training. This actually sounds promising to me. Think about it, you apply ice packs to knees and your back for pain control, why not blast your whole body? And third, muscle relaxation. I am a little confused about this one since I tighten up every muscle in my body when I get cold.
So Marwan agreed to one treatment, and I did a three-pack. We arrived and they first had us fill out comprehensive paperwork that went through our full medical histories and a long-list of contraindications to treatment.
After proving we are healthy people, we removed all jewelry and clothing then put on thick socks, slippers, and gloves. I went first. I stepped into the tube and my head was lifted above the container. Then the three minutes started. Every 30 seconds a blast of cold, dry air hit me. It was cold! Shivering, what-the-hell am I doing kind-of cold. Half way through I was shivering my butt off and covered in goosebumps. The attendant said I could stop the treatment at any time, but I was determined to make it through all 3 minutes. I did survive all 3 minutes, and honestly, it wasn’t that great. Not terrible, but not great. For those three minutes I just didn’t get the hype.
After I stepped out and watched Marwan start his treatment, I started to rewarm. This is when I started to feel the benefits. My muscles relaxed, the aches I had from my workout were minimized, and I felt rejuvenated and full of energy.
I should mention, Marwan kinda got screwed. He went after me so the machine was nice and cold for him, and yes, he hated it! He was also beyond skeptical and thought I was just wasting money. After his treatment he also agreed that his muscle aches were greatly diminished. He had leg day that morning and couldn’t squat at all. When getting dressed after the treatment he noticed it didn’t hurt when he bent to get dressed.
Sounds great, right? So here is the downside: the pain relief didn’t last. By the time we got home our aches and pains were back to normal. This was a 15 minute benefit.
Marwan never went back but I completed my series thinking persistence was the key. Now that I knew what was expected, the final treatments actually weren’t that bad. The energy and rejuvenation were the greatest benefit for me and this persisted for awhile after the treatment. The short-lived pain relief was just not worth it.
If you rely on pain-killers or have chronic pain, I would say try it! As long as you don’t have any contraindications to treatment, I think it can only help. I also think there might be an application here for athletes but the short-duration of relief makes me skeptical. Would I do it again, probably not. Would I discourage its use, nope! Give it a try and let me know what you think!