Ever wondered what negative 220 degrees Fahrenheit feels like? Well, it’s a lot like those old Outkast lyrics… “what’s cooler than being cool? ICE COLD”… but with a lot more F-bombs, prayers, and a pair of extra-large mittens. Obviously I can only speak for myself, but that’s basically a summary of my first experience in a cryotherapy machine.
Here’s the weird part. I think I’m a cryotherapy fan.
Weird, because I HATE being cold. Like let’s be honest. I’m fairly certain 80% of my college decision was predicated on a warm climate rather than a potential course of study. You guys, I even sleep with socks on.
So why did I give this sha-bang a go?
(This post probably contains affiliate links. Please see full disclosure & medical disclaimer at the bottom.)
Simply put– I’m sore. Yes, I do yoga many times a week and stretching is a part of my nighttime routine. But I’ve also been dealing with chronic knee pain for the last two years due to IT Band Syndrome, bursitis, and some good ol’ arthritis. Plus, after a full week of teaching so many barre, spin, and Pilates classes, my muscles are just really fatigued.
Oh, and one more reason.
I’m pretty much game for anything that scares me as long as I’m not hurting anyone else and my life isn’t entirely at risk ; ) That’s part of “creating a life in color”, right??
The concept of “biohacking” has been a fascination of mine ever since I read Dave Asprey’s book, ‘Head Strong’. While the science geek in me is drawn to all the chemistry and physiology involved in this topic, it really doesn’t take much to grasp the basics of biohacking or to implement small changes in your life. Essentially, it’s taking the body we’re given and optimizing its function to the best of its capabilities. The older I get the more invested I am in this type of self-care.
Dave’s basic definition of “biohacking is:
“If we want better outputs—to have more energy and focus, to be free of disease, to have a better memory, to perform optimally in business and athletics—then let’s tweak the things we put into our body and mind to stack the deck in our favor.”
And utilizing a cryotherapy machine is one modality of biohacking.
According to several resources on the interwebz, “Whole Body Cryotherapy” (also known as “WBC”) originated in Japan, around 1978, by Dr. Toshima Yamaguchi. His goal was to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis by freezing the surface of the skin for a short period of time as a means to decrease inflammation, much like the idea of holding ice to an injury.
Interestingly, while Dr. Yamaguchi may be coined as the founder of “WBC”, historians can date the use of cold therapy all the way back to the early Roman baths!
Anyways, the reported success of this therapy spread quickly throughout Europe and Russia, and eventually made its way to the United States. Cryotherapy has since evolved into a wildly popular practice in the alternative and holistic markets, and in particular with many elite athletes seeking more efficient recovery, and better performance.
In the meantime, the targeted purposes of using a cryotherapy machine have vastly expanded.
Before I get into the benefits, I need to preface the following statements with two things. One, I’m not a physician… just a gal really interested in science, nutrition, and general wellness. Two, cryotherapy has not been approved by the FDA. So before you try cryotherapy, please consult with your physician or appropriate practitioners (full medical disclaimer at the bottom of this article).
If you like to get into the nitty-gritty of empirical research, check out this study.
– reduced arthritic pain
– improved atopic dermatitis
– numbs nerve irritation
– improved mood for those suffering from mood disorders
– preventative against dementia and Alzheimer’s
– increased caloric burn/metabolic rate
This is a tough question to answer succinctly, as it depends on what area or benefit you are targeting.
Looking at specifically muscle pain relief, the most elementary explanation take-away I’ve been able to deduct from reading is that while chronic “low-grade” inflammation can be detrimental your body, short bursts of it can help repair tissue by triggering anti-inflammatory response signals. Basically, it potentially increases the healing process, which occurs in your muscles after you exercise.
For example, your muscles grow or develop from exercising because when you put stress on them, you cause tiny micro-tears. Your body then signals an anti-inflammatory response to “fix” or heal those tiny tears, which culminates in stronger muscles.
Standing in a cryotherapy machine potentially helps to better facilitate this!
The rundown of my first experience in a cryotherapy chamber…
I made an appointment at Charm City Integrative Health, a reputable holistic wellness center in Baltimore. This may seem obvious, but please do some research on whichever facility you’re considering prior to making an appointment. Ask questions before you go– how often do they operate the cryotherapy machine? Will a provider be with you the entire time? Will your head be above the chamber? Is there a quick switch to turn off in case of emergency? What should you wear/? What clothing will be provided for you? Safety first, peeps.
Once I got there, I was taken back into a room that hosted the cryotherapy machine. I was given a snuggly robe to put on over my bra/underwear, some tube socks, and fleece lined Crocs.
Then, the provider had me step into the machine, which kind of looks like a stand up tanning booth… and I really wish I couldn’t make this comparison from personal experience. Tanning is basically the opposite of biohacking and definitely something I wish I had not done in my youth! But maybe that helps you with a visual, I don’t know.
Inside the machine, I stepped on a small carpeted platform. She pressed a button so I was elevated enough for my head to be above the top of the machine. At this time, she instructed me to remove the robe and put these extra large wool mittens on my hands. I was also instructed to keep my hands above the chamber. They do this to prevent any injury to your extremities.
If you’re still trying to paint the picture, I’m wearing tube socks, Crocs, underwear/bra, and wool mittens. Nothing else. S-E-X-Y
As soon as I was “ready” (like who is really ready for this?), she turned on the machine. Over the course of a minute or so, the temps dropped down to -220 degrees F, with the entire experience lasting three minutes. She had warned me that the first 2 minutes wouldn’t feel that intense but the last minute is usually the most challenging.
I actually think the opposite occurred, but maybe I’m a weirdo. As soon as she turned it on, I was immediately dropping all the swear words. Innate response, I guess.
The cold air is dry, as it’s actually liquid nitrogen, so it’s kinda like jumping into the coldest pool you’ve ever jumped in, except you aren’t wet. Same shock factor though, but times a billion, trillion, gazillion.
If you’re a runner and have ever run without covering your legs on a freezing day, it felt a bit similar in that my quads actually started to produce a minor burning sensation. Definitely not what I would label as painful, but rather something I became very acutely aware of.
Because I became very, very acutely aware of EVERYTHING during those three minutes.
Besides cursing a lot, I made primitive small talk with the kind women assisting me. Despite being so aware of every sensation in my body, my ability to collectively formulate substantial sentences went out the window, almost forcing me to concentrate on my breathing.
Well hey, look at that– cryotherapy became my latest form of meditation ; )
And just when I thought I couldn’t take it any longer, she started counting down from the 10 second count. My time in the cryotherapy machine was finito!
It was kind of amazing in that when I walked out the door ALL of my body’s aches and pains were gone. Even my knee, which tends to bother me most of the day in some shape or form, felt normal. The heaviness and soreness of the rest of my body that comes with my full teaching schedule seemed suddenly refreshed.
It was really astonishing, frankly.
So how long did the relief last?
Well, my knee felt great until the next morning, so that was fairly temporary relief. I do know I need surgery though, so my expectations for any long-term abatement were low even prior to doing the cryotherapy. The good news though was the rest of my body sustained the relief, even through teaching the rest of my weekend classes! That in itself made the process worth it.
I would definitely do it again.
It is rather pricey though so not something at this time I could do consistently, which is I’ve read plays a significant role in optimization of the therapeutic benefits. My initial visit cost $35, and subsequent visits cost generally around $50-ish dollars. Many places offer packages with discounted rates for purchasing a large number of classes at once. This might help mitigate some of the costs if you wanted to try this for an extended period of time.
Other options I’ve read would be do go old school, and take ice baths for up to an hour. That actually sounds worse in my book, but might be your bag!
Have you ever tried cryotherapy? What were your thoughts? How did your experience differ? Leave me a comment and let me know! : ) Want to know about my first experience with biohacking and Bulletproof Coffee? Read here!
To creating a life in color (even when it’s -220 degrees)…
This website contains affiliate links, which means Tina may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. You will pay the same price for all products and services, and your purchase helps support this online space. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult with your physician first before trying any new physical activity, supplement, or dietary changes.