First, athletes were dong it. Then, celebrities were. Now, cryotherapy (aka “cryo”) is becoming more readily available and more popular among the rest of us.
In line with its namesake, cryotherapy just may make you cry, but the effects of the therapy are well worth it. The method involves standing in a deep-freezing tank for several minutes, which is purported to lead to weight loss, pain reduction, improved athletic performance, slowed aging, and improved sleep.
Would you take the (icy) dip for $50 to $100 session?
The ancient Greeks used cold dips to get rid of muscle pain. Meanwhile, in Finland, Northern Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Lituania, and Latvia, there has long been a tradition of ice swimming.
But what was once considered an ice bath or intermittently-cold shower has now become both a spa and medical service called cryotherapy. Developed in the 1970s by Japanese professor Toshima Tamauchi, cryotherapy procedures began as a method of treating rheumatoid arthritis among patients. While administering cryo, as much as 80 percent of people were relieved of symptoms of disease and pain. From there, the rest is history. Having published his findings, Tamauchi made cryotherapy available to the rest of the world.
How cryotherapy works
During a cryotherapeutic procedure, the body stands in a chamber and is exposed to nitrogen vapor that reaches as low as -150 to 180 degrees Celsius. The skin temperature is brought down to levels of 5 to 12 degrees Celsius. It is believed that when the body is exposed to the stress of the cold, it activates the body’s immune system and begins to regenerate. Endorphins are released into the bloodstream and activate inflammatory mediators. Essentially, after about 30 seconds in the cold, your body’s receptors will send a signal to your brain to notify it that it may be in danger of freezing. Your body will respond by sending 80 percent of your blood to the core in an attempt to keep it warm. Once you leave the chamber, your blood re-circulates in your body, and this is when it is believed toxins are released and deposited.
Scientific proof of cryo’s benefits is skim but positive results have been experienced by millions who say it has helped to bring relief of pain, inflammatory diseases, injuries, and other conditions. However, the death of woman in a cryotherapy chamber has brought the whole practice into question, despite claims that the woman had been alone and the machine had not been used properly.
Should you try cryotherapy?
For all intents and purposes, cryotherpay is a safe practice that can positively affect your body. The cold is said to only penetrate a few millimeters into the skin, making it extremely unlikely that you’d freeze to death during the procedure.
However, the price of cryotherapy is not as convincing as its benefits are. Sessions run from $50 to $100 and considering that you need several sessions per week when you first start cryotherapy, you can quickly rack up a bill. Some experts say an at-home ice bath is just as effective.
Contact a local cryotherapy clinic and talk to an employee about his or her experience with cryotherapy and what to expect more in detail. You can also reduce the price per session by purchasing a package. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll try it out once for the experience and then never again.
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Young Man Standing By Ice Hole Image from Shutterstock