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Cry Yo a River

July 3, 2015

No, I don’t know what that means either. But I’m nuthin’ if not bilingually punny.

I just wanted to share a wild adventure I went on today having to do with subjecting myself to a chamber that was chilled to a perfect -166 degrees F.

For half off the regular price, I got to experience cryotherapy for the first (and perhaps last) time. Such a deal. Hadda do it.

It’s not that I didn’t absolutely love it–I did–but I’m not sure it really does anything worth paying big bucks for. It may just be a thing, a trendy thing, a novelty thing, but not a truly therapeutic thing. Which is a bummer, because it’s genuinely wild, weird and exhilarating.

Here’s what the literature says (not just any literature–these are the claims made on the uscryotherapy.com site itself.. so.. I dunno. Wanna believe, but just not sure:

Cryotherapy is the whole-body or localized use of extremely cold temperatures in therapy (-76° to-166°F). The term “cryotherapy” comes from the Greek words cryo meaning cold and therapy meaning cure. The goal of cryotherapy treatment is to offer you better health and a faster recovery from injury. These benefits start with the reduction of inflammation, pain relief, and improved mobility. The cryotherapy process decreases cellular metabolism, increases cellular survival, decreases inflammation, decreases pain and spasm, and promotes vasoconstriction and vasodilatation which leads to increased levels of oxygenated blood delivered to damaged tissue. In the cold temperatures, the blood vessels quickly constrict forming a protective layer while the core body temperature is maintained. The process naturally stimulates blood circulation as the body’s hormone, immune, and nervous systems are activated.

Sound extremely intuitive and rational.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures (imagine that.. not taking your device into a sub-sub-sub freezing chamber).  But I found a couple online that give you an idea…

First, you don a few items of protective clothing…. some plastic under-mittens, some thick wool mittens, a headband that covers your ears, a face mask, and–if you didn’t wear some kind of athletic shoes–some socks and wool slipper things. You remove dangly earrings. You also make sure you’re not wet or wearing excessive lotions. These could freeze, you know.

cryo_couple

Tattoos are optional.

The technician gives you a brief overview–how many seconds here, how many minutes there, exit procedures should you feel faint or claustrophobic, and instructions about moving around. Mine also asked me what my favorite song was. Caught off guard by the question, I said the first thing that came to mind: Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. (I know.. best I could come with under pressure.)

Once safely dressed, briefed, your favorite song established, and mighty apprehensive, you enter the pre-chamber.

This is a space about 3.5′ x 3.5′ which they keep at a balmy -76 degrees. The 30 seconds you spend in this room serves to acclimate you, which you totally appreciate for all the right reasons.

After 30 seconds, the technician comes in over an intercom and instructs you to proceed through another door into the main room. This room is big enough for four people. If you’re by yourself, as I was, it’s big enough to march around in circles waving your arms. Which I did. This is also the room where you hear your favorite song, which is oddly comforting. I sang quietly under my mask. (Please don’t try to picture any of this.) There is a large window so the technician can keep a watchful eye on you. She/he talks to you, as well, counting down the seconds until your time is up. This, as it turns out, is very reassuring.

It starts to feel very cold and you start wondering if this is actually a good idea.

When your two minutes in the main chamber are up, you’re instructed to re-enter the pre-chamber. Coming from a -166 degree room, it feels staggeringly warm in there (and you come to understand how those silly Minnesotans say all those silly things about how pleasant it is outside and how they go out in shirt sleeves when the winter temperatures get all the way up to 22 degrees F, when actually it is not warm at all).

When you finally walk out of the pre-chamber, a whoosh of freezing mist follows you and fills the room, just like the freezing mist that used to tumble out of the freezer in your warm garage.

They quickly scan your skin with a thermometer to see what kind of drop in temperature you sustained (I went from 93 to 47 degrees on my outer skin layer, they said). They noted this as my baseline, helpful for my next visit.

This is what the whole contraption looks like:

cryo sauna

This fellow is coming out of the pre-chamber. Note: while he appears a little shell shocked, he is still standing and self-ambulatory!

As I said, this going from room temp to -76 to -166 to -76 to room temp is a very exhilarating sensation. I highly recommend it.

At this point, you shed your protective layers and head over to your choice of cardio machines. I chose a treadmill, and walked the suggested five minutes to re-warm my body.

If you’re there for the whole enchilada, which I was, you then go into a private room where your personal technician blasts extremely cold air on the body part of your choosing (I chose my right arthritic hip) for 2-3 minutes via a unit that looks like a vacuum hose. This is called a localized device and they claim it penetrates three times deeper than an ice pack and, due to its temperature, requires far less time to do the job. That seemed like a very good thing.

Finally, you are escorted into the last of the rooms, this one dark, for five minutes on a hot hydro massage bed (just like a water bed) with some sort of vibrating, rolling unit underneath. This is sublime.

I didn’t see this, but the brochure says they’ve also got a vibration plate. I tried one of these at Davis Swim and Fitness and loved it madly. It’s hard not to smile (or laugh) while you’re standing on it, shaking like a crazy person.

Really, who wouldn’t love all this?

I loved it, but I just don’t know if any of it works. It’s pricy and you feel like you’re part of some kind of late-night infomercial. But wouldn’t it be great if it did do all that they say it does?  Especially the part about reducing inflammation and speeding up the recovery process for damaged soft tissue. I’d be glad to pay if it got rid of this stupid arthritis.

And I could stop cryin’ me a river.

5 Responses to “Cry Yo a River”

  1. Elliot Margolies Says:

    No visions or even wavy walls or trails when you moved your hands around? Sounds like a ripoff. But seems to help one understand Minnesotans. We could have used that some years back when we did our consulting there.

  2. Bev Says:

    And do you notice an improvement today?


  3. […] seem smart to ignore the possibility it could work. (I’m the person who stepped into a -166 degree cryo chamber, believing that would be the key to reducing inflammation, remember? Gluten free seems maybe less […]


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