The Cold Hard Truth About Cryotherapy

benefits-of-cryotherapy

Written by Emma-Charlotte Bangay

A Bikini, below zero temps and Beyoncé on my side, this is my cryotherapy chronicle.

 

What Is Cryo?

Cryotherapy is the hottest celebrity craze purported to trick ageing at its own game, reduce muscle inflammation, boost moods, assist in sleep patterns and crush kilos. And it involves standing half nakid in a -110 degree Celsius room for three minutes.

Fans include Demi Moore and Alicia Keys, but I was spooked. I have conniptions without 14 scorching water bottles as bedfellows, so this was going to be tough.

However, when I arrived at Alchemy Cryotherapy Centre in Melbourne co-founder, Nitel set me at ease. She supplied me with a robe, socks, and slippers to accompany my bikini (In winter. In Melbourne.) Before I made my way tentatively to the Cryo booth – cooled electrically to circulate air evenly rather than with liquid nitrogen as many others Cryo centres do.

 

How Does It Work?

Heart racing, Nitel placed my mask and earmuffs on me correctly and took my temperature. Boasting a healthy human non-frozen 33 degrees, I chose my tunes for the ensuing 2.45 minutes. Kendrick Lamar was going to be the audible slap around the head I needed!

I then stepped into the pre-chamber for 30 seconds to become accustomed to the chill. At a balmy -70c, this gave me a taste of what was to come. As the countdown began for me to step into the main chamber, I tried to remain breathing calmly – as Nitel had reminded me – and in I went.

How can I describe it? Biting. Shocking. Chilling. I just had to move slowly as I had been advised.

I could hear the tunes, but my senses were on fire. I panicked a little and my breath caught in my throat a few times – even though I knew I could exit easily at any time. The wide glass window of the chamber allowed me to keep eye contact with Nitel if I needed, or simply glance at her sunny thumbs up for encouragement! I just kept walking in circles and trying to maintain some level of circulatory sensations. (N.B.: didn’t happen.)

I felt every second of those 2 minutes 45. I walked, I moved slowly (as was advised) and I focused on keeping calm.

My shins and calves became extremely heavy, and my elbows ached with a ghostly arthritic pain. (Later I found out this was due to possible inflammation in the area being reduced). My skin was red. Pins and needles pricked every pore.

 

What Are The Benefits of Cryotherapy?

Apparently, the ice-cold temperature pushes the brain into the ‘protective zone,’ and all the blood is pulled to the core to provide heat. Once the body begins to warm up after Cryotherapy, the oxygenated blood is then accelerated to the extremities as the body warms after the chamber, easing muscle pain, reducing inflammation (which, let’s face it is the cause of everything from ageing through to joint aches) and promoting healing.

 

What Are The Results?

And then it was all over. I ejected myself into the pre-chamber and clocked in at 3 degrees when Nitel took my temperature once I’d exited completely. I could have climbed mountains, backward, on my hands. I felt amazing and exhilarated.

I had a little cycle on the bike to warm up and then got dressed. Wow. I slept so well that night and ate well too. My mood stayed buoyed all day and my appetite low. I really can’t explain the lift it gave me. Was it the mental challenge I’d overcome that left me feeling so high? Or was it a physical reaction to such an environment?

Having now had three sessions in one week, I am a big fan. My second and third visit – three minutes in duration – was nothing like the first. I simply stripped down and got into it (with Beyoncé keeping the beat). I felt more confident, less anxious and having experienced the benefits, a lot more enthusiastic about getting my kit off in the cold. This was a piece of (ice-cream) cake.

 

Would I Recommend Cryo?

Yes! I’ve never been one for fluffy treatments. I need a punch in the guts and an adrenalin kick in the head before I’m happy. This was the perfect way to spend three minutes and come out feeling a million dollars.

 

What Is The Science Behind It?

As with any treatment, there is conjecture as to whether it works. But, think about it, what is the first thing you reach for if you stub your toe or burn your finger. Yep, the ice pack. Reduced temperatures can stimulate healing systems and reduce inflammation in the body. Although there is little scientific evidence to support full body cryogenics, research into Norepinephrine – a hormone and neurotransmitter in the brain that Cryo stimulates– shows it increases in these environments. This reduces inflammation and alleviates pain.

Therefore this is hugely popular for athletes! Nitel tells me they are big fans and regular visitors. Also, anyone wanting to alleviate pain, feel invigorated or simply test their mettle are regular Cryo-graduates.

 

Keep Your Clothes On If…

You’re pregnant, have a heart condition, have had a stroke or heart attack, a pacemaker, cancer, acute kidney disease or even cold and flu symptoms. Cryo is not safe for everyone, so only consider it if your health professional gives it the nod and you’ve read all the fine print.

 

Image: Peter Rodger
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