To most people being in a -130 degree chamber like structure for three minutes doesn't sound so appealing, but if you have some muscle aches and pains, inflammation in your body or even some extra pounds you want to shed, maybe you should think again.
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is a holistic wellness solution that enables the human body to recover and rejuvenate itself naturally. During cryotherapy, the body is exposed to extremely low temperatures (for one - three minutes) to trigger the body’s most powerful mechanisms of self-protection, self-recovery and self-rejuvenation.
Thrive CryoStudio in Rockville, Maryland specializes in Cryotherapy. The studio has seen over 1,400 clients and has conducted over 5,000 cryotherapy sessions. I sat down with owner Brandon Yu to get the 411 on what cryotherapy is and the science behind this new craze.
How does cryotherapy work?
Whole Body Cryotherapy uses ultra-cooled nitrogen gas application to lower the client’s skin temperature to 30 degrees fahrenheit for one to three minutes. At first, your body reacts like it normally would if you were standing outside on a cold day, by increasing circulation in your body to try and warm your body up. After about 45-60 seconds, your body realizes that it’s not doing an effective job of warming up, due to the continuous nitrogen vapor hitting your skin.
Next, as the thermoreceptors in the skin send messages to the brain and central nervous system the body goes into “Survival Mode” by sending hyper-oxygenated and nutritious blood via vasoconstriction to the body’s vital organs in its core. After exiting the ultra-cooled environment, the body begins to warm to its natural temperature and vasodilation occurs, sending the oxygenated and nutritious blood back out to the body’s periphery. This process provides the body with extra nutrients, rids the body of toxins, produces collagen, and activates the body’s natural cell regeneration cycle to produce newer, healthier cells.
What are some of the benefits?
As this is a holistic wellness treatment, there are a wide ranging amount of benefits to cryotherapy, as long as the client sticks to their recommended treatment plan. We like to group the benefits into three main categories:
Sports & Fitness:
- Accelerates muscle recovery
- Increases energy
- Reduces muscle soreness and inflammation
- Relieves tendonitis pain
- Improves muscle strength and joint function
- Quickens recovery time from injuries
- Increases athletic performance
Health & Wellness:
- Reduces inflammation in the body
- Helps relieve back pain, joint pain, knee pain and general pain and tightness throughout the body
- Alleviates symptoms of arthritis, Lymes disease, fibromyalgia
- Reduces effects of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema
- Reduces severity of migraine headaches
- Increases blood circulation and provides a quicker recovery time from surgeries and physical therapy
Mind, Mood & Beauty:
- Increases metabolism and burns calories (between 500-800 calories)
- Promotes better quality sleep
- Increases endorphin levels and boosts mood
- Increases collagen production and reduces the appearance of cellulite
- Accelerates weight loss (with proper diet and exercise)
How should your body feel immediately after, an hour or two after, and about 24 hours after?
Cryotherapy is not a magic pill, so individuals should not expect to feel “like a new person” or a huge dramatic difference after their first session. However, after a single session, clients can expect to feel a bit looser and relaxed. They might even have temporary relief from some minor pain they were experiencing (for more consistent pain, it’ll take multiple sessions). Additionally, clients can expect to fall into one of two buckets on how they’ll feel the rest of the day. They will feel either 1) super energized and feel like they’re ready to take on whatever comes their way during the day, or 2) they’ll feel super relaxed, calm and even may want to take an afternoon nap. Both of these responses are normal. Additionally, clients may notice a much better nights sleep the night of their cryotherapy treatment.
With regards to benefits that are more noticeable, on average it takes about eight sessions for a client to feel a “noticeable” difference in their pain levels, muscle recovery, etc. As I mentioned, it’s not a magic pill, but if done consistently, most of clients have seen tremendous results!
How often do you recommend someone get cryotherapy?
The recommended frequency for someone to get cryotherapy honestly varies from person to person and condition to condition. At Thrive CryoStudio, we really take the time to listen, educate and consult each client that walks into the door to recommend a tailored cryotherapy treatment plan for his or her condition. We also monitor their progress and how the client feels after each cryotherapy session in case we need to tweak their frequency. With that being said, we have some clients that come everyday and others that come once every two weeks.
Who is the ideal candidate for cryotherapy?
Many people associate the use of cryotherapy with professional athletes or even on “The Real Housewives” because that’s where they’ve seen it. With that being said, most of your everyday people can benefit from cryotherapy. For the high school athletes to the middle-aged runner, cryotherapy will greatly benefit them in their muscle recovery, while reducing inflammation in their joints from the wear and tear they’re putting on their body.
Also, for those individuals that are suffering from nagging neck, back, hip, knee or any other pain, cryotherapy will greatly benefit them.
Any risks clients should be aware of?
Cryotherapy can raise your blood pressure. We check all clients' blood pressure immediately prior to each of their sessions and will not allow them to proceed if their blood pressure is too high. In addition, clients must keep their heads and chins up while in the cryotherapy tank to avoid breathing in the nitrogen fumes which can cause lightheadedness. At Thrive Cryostudio, a therapist is with our clients throughout their treatment session, constantly engaging them in conversation to ensure they don't experience any adverse side effects. If there is any concern, the treatment is stopped immediately.
What's one misconception about cryotherapy you'd like people to understand?
Cryotherapy is not a magic pill. Its benefits are wide reaching and include everything from weight loss to pain management to improved sleep, anxiety and skin. However, while many clients have a post-treatment euphoria and a report increased energy after only one session, it typically takes several sessions to reap the greatest benefit.