Written by Reena A Jadhav
What you need to know before you do cryotherapy also known as cold therapy.
Can you lose weight, kill inflammation, look younger and reverse pain from just three minutes in the freezer? The theory behind Cryotherapy is that by bringing your body temperature down by exposing it to typically –200°F for two to three minutes, you can improve arthritis, asthma, depression, and chronic pain, soothe sore muscles, boost metabolism, along with many other health benefits.
That’s the promise of Cryotherapy, but what’s the reality? Scientific studies are great, but nothing beats personal experience. I did Cryotherapy for 90 days and this is what happened.
WHY DID I CRYO?
Health has become my top priority since September 2016 when I slid from super healthy to super sick with 28 symptoms and no diagnosis. Well, the diagnosis according to a dozen specialists was “idiopathic something, something,” translation, “we really don’t know what’s causing your crazy symptoms, including extreme weight loss.” I decided to own my health, and eighteen months later I had reversed all my symptoms. In fact, I emerged healthier than I had ever been my whole life.
Going through a radical health transformation lit inside me a hunger to try out various natural healing modalities. I started reading emerging research from the most brilliant minds of our times and watching every TEDTalk on health and wellness.
Curious by nature, simply reading or listening to the trailblazers wasn’t enough, I wanted to test these modalities on myself. First came the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, then infrared sauna and glutathione injectables. I even flew to Florida to do stem cell therapy with the renowned Dr. Kristin Comella who I had interviewed on my podcast.
I had heard about Cryotherapy from some of my guests on HealthierPodcast.com but hadn’t felt compelled to seek out a local cryo experience. That was, until I saw multiple Groupons for cryotherapy, all featuring angelic beauties inside a heavenly chamber, smiling. The promotion made it sound like the “new cure” for all that ails us. There was an option 2.3 miles away for three sessions of Cryotherapy for just $99. The cost of cryotherapy didn’t seem prohibitive like that of stem cell therapy. That was all the incentive I needed to try this biohack on myself.
By the end of the month, I had tried cryotherapy in a neck down liquid nitrogen chamber at a sports gym, at a chiropractor’s office, and at a health spa. I then tried full-body cold room cryotherapy at a local wellness spa called US Cryo, one of a chain of wellness spas featuring state of the art cryotherapy room, IFR sauna, water massage bed and a whole host of neat machines to whip you back into youth.
HOW IT WORKS:
There are two types of Cryotherapy experiences: one features a single person metal container that freezes you with liquid nitrogen up till your neck and you can choose to keep your arms out, the other features a room analogous to a cold freezer and doesn’t use liquid nitrogen.
- Full Body Chamber
This cryotherapy involves first stepping into a cool down prep chamber followed by the cold freeze chamber where the temperatures are somewhere around -200 F. Check out my prep video below and scroll down for all 8 benefits I experienced:
You can choose to wear your own clothes or swap out for the shirt and shorts supplied by the wellness-spa. You can wear your own clothes as long as there is no metal element in your clothing and no moisture. You also must remove all jewelry, put on socks, shoes, gloves, ear muffs, head beanie, and a face surgical mask. The extra precaution is because in this chamber your face is also exposed to the cold. You are literally walking into a freezer.
After preparation, you are ready to walk into the cooling chamber for 15 seconds, followed by entering the freezer for another 2 to 2.5 minutes.
cooling chamber & freezer room:
The goal is to get your body temperature down by 30 to 40 degrees
Here I go into the chamber and THIS is how I keep from freezing my delicate parts!
At US Cryo, where I tried the full-body immersion cryo for the first time, they have the option of selecting your favorite music to freeze to! I chose Highway to Hell, which I thought captured the essence of my experience.
As I moved the first time from the prep chamber into the freezer, I felt a way of cold fog engulf me. A sense of panic rose up. I start to breathe faster. I wanted to run out the door screaming. I could see the attendant watching me like a hawk, but with a warm smile still playing on her face. She made a gesture to say ‘one’, that could be either I had finished a minute or had a minute to go, I was too frozen to care.
Wait, where did I feel exactly like this before? Ah, yes, Bikram Yoga! The first time I did hot yoga, I had to bribe myself to not run out. If I recall rightly I ate a massive ice-cream as a treat for not running out of that room.
So, back to Cryo, my first time, the only way I figured I would make it was if I danced. My soul is that of a dancer, and as the music pulsed through the freezing walls, I started jumping and running around the room. I made up an entire routine, circling left, then hopping in the center to the chorus, then circling right, counting the lights on the wall, twirling around the center and back to circling the room.
It seemed to take forever.
Then, the lights blinked and my 2.5 minutes were over.
I ran out shivering, hopping, swearing like a lady into a warm welcoming room. I continued to hop and jump to warm up, frantically rubbing my hands for a few minutes and then …..something like crazy laughter rolled up my spine till I was engulfed in sheer euphoria.
Adrenalin. Joy at being alive. The thrill of not being frozen meat.
That euphoric feeling of: “I can run a marathon without food!” stayed with me for about 7 hours. Every cell felt alive. I felt alive.
That first day I couldn’t sleep till 11 pm as I had so much energy. It was literally bursting from each pore.
I crashed the next day. I slept like a baby at noon for 30 minutes. After that, I decided to do cryo only before noon so as to burn off the power surge by 10 pm.
- Neck Down Chamber:
In the case of the liquid nitrogen chamber cryo, you undress completely, put on a robe, a warm pair of socks, slippers, and gloves before walking into the chamber for 3 minutes. Once in the chamber, you remove your robe and get ready to be blasted with cold nitric oxide air. They can adjust the chamber to be at your neck level to ensure you keep your face outside as the gas itself is toxic.
A friendly attendant watches you while your chamber cools from room temperature to about -140 degrees. You can choose to watch an entertaining Bruno Mars music video, as I did, or chat nervously with your attendant till your time is up.
The experience in this chamber starts gently and ratchets up till you feel your insides freezing. It ends rather quickly so you’re only truly freezing for the last minute.
Once it’s over, you put on your robe back on and head back to put on your clothes and depart.
The entire experience is about 15 minutes, depending on how fast you are with your dressing skills.
You can measure your body temperature drop after each therapy to track how you react to changes in temperature. In my case, after each 3-minute treatment, I would drop about 30 degrees.
WHICH IS BETTER:
There are many similarities:
- Both ultimately cool you down dramatically
- In both cases, the attendants watch you like a hawk and keep you entertained if necessary
- I dropped about the same degrees in both chambers
- Both take about the same amount of time
- I don’t think one is safer than the other
- In both cases, they measure your temperature before you go in and once you come out
The differences are primarily around personal preference and other services being offered by the Cryotherapy provider.
- I prefer the freezer as it also cools down my face, giving me some anti-aging skin benefits
- I also am not a fan of the nitric oxide gas being used to cool the air in the neck down cryo and hence prefer the freezer
- I love the additional services offered by US Cryo including the IFR sauna, the water bed massage, and so many other machines.
On a more personal note, I have discovered a love for dancing the entire 2.5 minutes in the freezer. It’s my personal time to let go! Seriously, you don’t know what you’re missing untill you try it. So if you do try cryotherapy, I dare you to pick your favorite dance tunes and let loose in the cold.
Each of us has a unique body blueprint, so my experience is unique to me. Please keep that in mind as you read my results below. I would love to know how you felt after doing cryotherapy, so please share your own experiences in the comments.
- Feel the rush
I stopped drinking caffeine, including green tea, about three years ago. I typically stay even-keeled and steady paced during the day. Cryo picks me up and throws me on top of an energy curve very akin to caffeine but without the jitters and acidity. I feel exhilarated, alert, ready to take on anything and everything. It lasts for about 6 to 8 hours!
- Feel the cheer
Since I meditate daily, I’ve also developed a sense of calm that rarely gets too ruffled. With Cryo I get pushed towards the spectrum of giddy and joyful, and it lasts for hours. I love the extra dose of joy that cryo gives me.
- Feel the chill
My body temperature swings between heated up to chilled, depending on the time of the month. With cryo, I don’t get heated up as much but do tend to stay chilled as my circulation isn’t that great. I’ve developed a new ritual of hot steaming macadamia or hazelnut milk (homemade in Vitamix with cinnamon, cloves and honey) to warm up my insides once I come home. I love it!
- Feel the burn
Cryo marketing states it can burn hundreds of additional calories due to the metabolism boost. I have found that it definitely does boost up the burn, but it also increases hunger. I starve within a few hours if I haven’t carefully managed my post cryo feed. As long as I load up on some good fats and some carbs I feel fine, otherwise, I find myself binging on everything in sight.
- Feel the tone
I have definitely become more toned since I started doing cryo. I actually don’t like weighing myself and rarely hop on a scale. I find that the more I track my weight, the more I stress eat. So I stopped weighing myself decades ago but instead use how my favorite pair of jeans fit as my measuring tool. My clothes do fit better when I do cryo.
- Feel the youth
Cryo has definitely helped my skin look and feel better. It’s more youthful and “springy”.
- Feel the heal
Cryo does help accelerate healing of wounds and does decrease pain. I ended up bruising my leg and within 2 days the bruise had disappeared along with the pain. So, if you have a specific injury or surgery, cryo could help.
- Feel anti-inflammatory benefits
For two years I was a hot inflamed mess. Rashes, hives, irritability and more. All that went away after I followed my own healing protocol. However, my CRP levels stayed around 2.5 mg/L, which are considered on the edge of normal. After 90 days of cryo I had my CRP tested again and it was down to 1.2 mg/L! It did decrease this inflammation marker in my case.
- Remove all metal, (that includes underwire bras, ladies) as you don’t want cold metal giving you freezer burns. I wear leggings and long-sleeved cotton t-shirt instead of shorts and short sleeve t-shirt as I prefer to protect my knees, legs, and elbows. Most men I see go in with no shirt and just a pair of shorts, not me! Don’t be a hero, find your comfort zone in the freezer.
- Eat about an hour before you go as you will feel less cold but it won’t impact temperature drop.
- It is best to do cryo by noon as the energy rush is insane and might keep you up half the night if you do a late session. Of course, not everyone experiences that rush, so you will have to test and track how you react to it.
- Pick a fun song that you love and dance away! Don’t stare at the attendant or count minutes, it’s much worse that way. The goal is to give your mind something fun to do other than trying to race out the door.
- You will freak out the first 3 to 4 times. Your heart will race, you’ll want to run out screaming, your teeth will chatter, and your mind will scream, “you idiot, what are you doing to me?”. Then something remarkable will happen, your body will get used to it and stay calm, even as your body temperature drops to below 40. Don’t give up, stay with it, if you are interested in seeing benefits.
- Drink something warming with cloves, cinnamon and spices to warm up your insides after your therapy. No, I do not recommend any caffeine after cryo. You’re already feeling a high, the last thing your body needs is more nerve stimulating acid. I would steer clear of caffeine the entire day so you can experience how your body reacts to cryo.
- Try doing cryo after sauna for a one-two punch but not the other way round. It is not recommended to do cryo and then go into the sauna.
- If you have any medical conditions, please check with your doctor before you try it. Cryo clearly has a noticeable impact on the body, so you want to make sure you’re strong enough to deal with heart rate rush and lowered body temperature.
- If at any point you start to hyperventilate or feel you can’t breathe, come out, don’t be a hero. Try another day.
I am grateful for all the amazing scientific studies that help us with deep insights but nothing replaces personal experience. If you are suffering from aches, pains, wounds, post-surgery issues etc., it’s worth trying cryo about three times to determine whether it’s for you or not. I have decided it’s definitely going to remain a part of my weekly health regimen for life.
Ask me about my cryo or other biohacking experiences at www.HealCircles.org. I’m always excited to hear from readers!
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