Editor's note: This is a personal essay about one woman's experience and should not be taken as advice. Please consult your physician before any new medical practice.
During a recent trip with my husband, we had the chance to explore a new city and try new things. One of the things on our list? Cryotherapy, the use of extreme cold to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, increase energy, and much more.
While this treatment has been around since the 1970s when it was used by a Japanese physician to treat rheumatoid arthritis, these cold chambers are now gaining popularity in North America. You might have heard of the practice in terms of professional athletes who us cryotherapy as an alternative to cold water immersion or ice packs as a way to decrease recovery time and increase performance. (international soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has a chamber at home.)
However, this therapy isn't only for the athletically elite. Everyone can benefit from a session in these frigid chambers, and lucky for me — and you! — cryo "spas" are popping up all over the country.
Users report cellulite reduction, pain relief from joint disorders, improved skin conditions, and better resilience to stress. The process also claims to burn up to 800 calories, release a flood of endorphins, help you sleep more soundly, reduce inflammation, and smooth wrinkles. So there's that.
My cryotherapy experience began with a change into workout clothes, socks, and some gloves. (My husband chose to undergo the therapy in his underwear to expose even more skin to the extreme cold.) I then stepped into a padded chamber that surrounded my entire body and left my head sticking above and open to the room.
The chamber began to fill with nitrogen vapor to drop the temperature to between minus-140 degrees and minus-170 degrees Celsius. I immediately began to shiver but distracted myself by talking to my husband and the operator, who never left the room.
Here are three reasons I think being cold is the next hot thing in the health industry:
1. It only takes three minutes.
Let’s face it. We all feel like we have too few hours in the day. So finding something that can improve our health and takes only minutes is ideal.
During the three-minute treatment, receptors in the skin send signals to the brain to release endorphins and valuable biochemicals while blood is sent to the core to protect internal organs and maintain body temperature. Once you exit the chamber, the body begins to return the blood to the surface. This process of vasoconstriction and vasodilation breaks down toxins in your system and carries them away.
And for anyone who thinks they might feel too constricted in the chamber, I'm happy to report I never felt claustrophobic because the operator was always in the room with me and the door could be opened at any time. The base inside the chamber is adjustable, so your head is always above the chamber. It's also roomy enough to move around a bit if that helps you make it through the three minutes of cold.
2. You don’t sweat.
I love a good sauna session, but it's difficult for me to fit into a busy schedule when I have to plan to go anywhere after profusely sweating for 20 minutes. With cryotherapy, the only outward sign that I'd just had a treatment was the pinkish hue of my exposed skin.
When it was over, I quickly got dressed again (no need to shower) and headed out the door to dinner. I was a bit chilly in the restaurant, but I felt like my normal body temperature returned quickly as I began to eat.
3. You feel amazing afterward.
The rush of endorphins I felt afterward was amazing: I was energized and laughing. I felt refreshed and relaxed. I immediately wanted to sign up for another session.
Though cryo spas might be difficult to find outside of big cities right now, I hope they become more ubiquitous as other people discover the ease of fitting the treatment into their lifestyle along with the myriad health benefits of doing so.
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