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A “Cool” Trend That Could Leave You Feeling Refreshed

by Anissa Lopez

Helen Childress, a first time customer of US Cryotherapy, in Tampa, was involved in a car accident almost a year ago, leaving her searching for methods of pain relief. Childress has been experiencing pain that extends from the top to bottom of her spine.

“I’ve been going and trying different things like cryotherapy—a lot of walking, stretching, yoga,” Childress said. “This [cryotherapy] I was interested in and thought okay. And then when I saw it was a walk-in basis I gave it a try.”

Childress stepped into the whole-body cryotherapy chamber hoping to find a solution for her discomfort. Once inside, Childress was able to stand and move freely, while temperatures fluctuated on an average of minus 170. Her skin temperature dropped between 30-45 degrees, with the process lasting two and a half minutes.

Even though it was freezing Childress said she will go back because it was such a good experience.People are encouraged by cryo staff to continue the process multiple times to get the full effect.

Childress is not the only one trying this treatment. Tons of people and pro-athletes like Floyd Mayweather Jr., a professional boxer, and Dmitry Bivol, a light-weight boxer, are researching the benefits of cryotherapy and making the treatment a part of their weekly routine. Even Mark Wahlberg advertised the treatment on social media by posting a video on Instagram.

“It kicks off a bunch of endorphins particularly norephedrine, serotonin and dopamine,” Jeff Houghtaling, general manager of US Cryotherapy in Tampa, said. “So those are the main endorphins you’re going to get to both alleviate pain; helps to circulate the blood in your system, cleans your system out, gets you ready for whatever is coming next.”

A YouTube video titled Physiology of cold shock therapy on US Cryotherapy’s website, says that cold shock therapy stimulates a self-repair reaction due to whole body thermodynamics. The cold air therapy is an experience that will leave your body and skin feeling relaxed and rejuvenated by shocking your body to reduce inflammation.

US Cryotherapy, among many places in the United States and in different countries, offer whole-body cryotherapy, as well as localized treatments. Houghtaling said the place experienced tremendous growth since opening up in October 2016.  

“I think people are leaning toward alternative ways of healing and this would fall into that category,” says Natalie Olsen, an experienced nutrition and fitness professional. Olsen has researched cryotherapy and has patients involved in the treatment. “I think it is a harmless way to possibly feel better, more energized and recover quicker.”

Olsen said that the majority of client feedback about cryotherapy is very positive. Clients have said that they have more energy and that recoveries are faster.

There are two types of cryotherapy technologies. The whole body walk-in system and the nitrogen cryotherapy.

The whole body walk-in system uses regular, oxygenated air and the nitrogen cooling system, which fills up with nitrogen, similar to a  refrigerator. You start off by going into the pre-chamber for 15 seconds, which is approximately negative 30 degrees. Then you transition into the main chamber with a temperature approximately at negative 170 degrees to finish off your time. It is electronically powered and uses three different compressors to bring down the air in stages to achieve the temperatures.

On the other hand, in the nitrogen cryotherapy method, you are placed into a stand-up, narrow, tube-like chamber where your body is immersed in nitrogen. The liquid gas encompasses the body and rises.

In order to receive this type of care, you’ll need to first gear up in your cryo kit (headwear, mask, gloves, and footwear). Then, a technician records your skin temperature. You are then ready to enter the cryotherapy chamber.

Following this, you’ll be instructed to do five to 10 minutes of cardio to warm up.  

While the whole body cryotherapy is considered effective by some, others have reported issues with the treatment.  

Harvard Health Publishing stated that poorly controlled high blood pressure, major heart or lung disease, poor circulation, allergy symptoms triggered by cold, and nerve disease in the legs or feet are some complications that can occur with this treatment. Additionally, irritations like skin burns have also been reported, but it should not be problem if you’re suited up appropriately.

Some say the cost could also be a downside. A single session could cost between $20 to $80. However, it can be argued that it is cheaper than surgery or a visit to the chiropractor.  

Currently, there is not much proof with regards to the benefits of whole body cryotherapy and how helpful it is overall. That being said, it seems as though people are intrigued by the experience regardless.

Anissa can be reached at anissa.lopez@spartans.ut.edu 

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