Cryotherapy Benefits and Results

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

cryo commandments

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.

ice-bath-1024x683

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.

adam in chamber

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.

Intentional Thinking, Acting and Connecting

As someone who has been an integrative physician for the last 20 + years, I have obviously been exposed to this concept of mindfulness, the ability to be present and “in the moment”.  When you think of it, mindfulness is just the ability to be present, to be here now, not in your mind wandering to the past or future.

I absolutely agree, to be present and in the moment is important to helping us connect with people and to live our best lives.  However, at least for me, often, just being present alone isn’t enough to get me the outcomes I desire. So, along with some colleagues, I began to develop this concept called “informed mindfulness“.

 

You need to be present and in the moment but you also need the knowledge, so that while you are present, you can make choices that facilitate different kinds of outcomes for you.

I began to think more about this and I began to talk to friends and colleagues and morphed the thinking to this idea of intentionality. Asking myself questions like “What am I really trying to do right now?” “What do I really want out of this situation?” “What is my why?”

There must be something pretty special about waking up in the morning and having a clear sense of why the day matters.

True health and wellness transformation starts with a deep and honest exploration of our “why?”.

Do What Feels Purposeful

Other questions that have helped me grow – “What am I motivated by today?” What is meaningful for me now? How does what I am doing relate to living my best life?  You could break it down into this concept of being intentional with at least these three main areas of your daily life.

Intentional Thinking

kettlebellWe create needless suffering for ourselves when we don’t take the time to think with intention. We allow our minds to wander and tell ourselves lies about ourselves, about others and about a potential future that we are envisioning and all the disasters and terrible things that could happen to us.

thinking intentionSometimes we let our minds wander to things that have happened in the past while reinterpreting and adding a new meaning to them.  So, I believe, one of the keys to living a life that feels fulfilling while lessening that suffering, is to be present and to actually ask yourself, am I thinking with intention?

Is my thinking consistent with what I know to be the facts? Is my thinking consistent with my values and my beliefs on a deeper level? Is my thinking in line with the vision I have for myself? Does it align with how I want to show up in this world?

Of course, all of this thinking then needs to translate into how you act. Is your behavior consistent with your thinking?

Intentional Acting

Is your behavior in alignment with how you want to show up in this world? For example, are you speaking to others with intention? Do you sometimes lash out at others when you don’t mean to? If you do, is that really intentional? This is not about judgment. I am not passing judgment about what your actions should or shouldn’t be, but the question is, Are your actions intentional?

Intentional Connection

Then the third thing that came up is this idea of connection. We need to be able to connect to ourselves to understand what is truly important for us. We also need a connection to others and connection to nature and our environment as a way to round off an approach to living our best lives. When we are not connecting in an intentional way, a piece of the puzzle is missing from living our best lives and living a life that is consistent with our values.

values.pngA value is really just a direction we want to take in our lives. It comes from what we believe is important and purposeful to us.

So we need to be able to act, think and connect with intention and that stems from an ability to be present in the moment. To be awake and to be aware, right here and now.