I tried cryotherapy for the first time at CryoEvolution in Mt. Pleasant, SC, near Charleston. There have been a number of interesting studies that have found that cryotherapy is therapeutic for reducing muscle soreness.
The Cryotherapy market can be split into liquid nitrogen therapy, dry ice, and electric. A description with claims on the company’s website explains their approach and benefits.
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is the process of exposing the body to ultra-low temperatures (-200 to -250F) in a controlled environment for a limited amount of time. The individual enters a Nitrogen-cooled cryogenic sauna or chamber for 1-3 minutes, which lowers the skin surface temperature significantly. This action stimulates receptors, activating a Central Nervous System response and causing a release of endorphins. After the session, the body immediately begins to reheat itself, increase circulation, and decrease inflammation by clearing toxins, lactic acid, and metabolic waste. The new supply of oxygenated blood stimulates cellular regeneration. Many notice an after-burn effect in which they metabolize additional calories. WBC treatments have been adopted by elite athletes and professional sports teams for muscle recovery and injury prevention.
In my mind, it is probably as effective as an ice water bath but a lot less brutal. Although Cryotherapy does get kinda cold, it’s a fast three minutes and you’re done.
Developed over 40 years ago by a Japanese doctor to alleviate the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, it wasn’t until European rugby and football teams started freezing themselves in the past ten years that it became more popular. There is suppose to be at least 400 cryotherapy spas in America and the technology has been used in the US for the last 8+ years. It has become popular in non-clinical settings by sufferers of a variety of disorders, those looking for relief from inflammation and a competitive edge in training. Not just for athletes, it supposedly reduces inflammation throughout the entire body and can help those with arthritis, joint disorders, improve post-operative recovery, manage pain, improve mood, boost metabolism and improve sleep.
Now, it should be noted that scientific studies on whole body cryotherapy are inconclusive at best.
So, let’s start with the Cryo Commandments which include –
- making sure to rotate during your session
- the feeling of pins, needles, numbness, and tingling along with shivering and shaking are normal
- expect a 30-50 degree skin temperature drop
Judd Baker, the founder of CryoEvolution explains, “You are entering a chamber that contains liquid nitrogen turning it into nitrogen gas and cooling it to about negative 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold air will help reduce inflammation, as well as stiffness, pain and soreness. The reason you wear a robe, socks, slippers and gloves is that we want the maximum exposure to that cold, but we also want to protect the extremities.”
Cryotherapy isn’t for everyone. Those who are pregnant or have a heart condition are not candidates for therapy. According to Baker your body will go into a little bit of a state of shock and will boost endorphin production, melatonin, serotonin, norepinephrine, and it should make you sleep better and increase your mood for the rest of the day.
Three minutes in the chill chamber wasn’t the most comfortable for me but it wasn’t terrible. I certainly prefer it to lying in an tub of ice water for 20 minutes.
If you have muscle aches and soreness from working out, you certainly can do local treatments like an ice pack or bag of peas and CryoEvolution even offers localized cryotherapy which can be used to target specific areas. Their clients frequently combine this treatment with whole-body cryotherapy, to treat problem areas. The local area treatment usually only needs to be conducted for 5-10 minutes.
I also tried their Normatec Compression Therapy Boots, which are suppose to be great for relieving sore & stiff legs, especially combined with a cryo session. The NormaTec Recovery System is an air pressure massage indicated to temporarily relieve minor muscle aches and/or pains and to temporarily increase circulation to the treated areas.
The results of this study did show that intermittent pneumatic compression systems, stockings, and multilayer bandaging are useful and effective in venous leg ulcer treatment.
More information can be found here, on how compression boots work.