Cryotherapy: What -270° F Feels Like
While attempting to make sport my livelihood, I put up big weeks (up to 35-hours) and tinkered with just about every recovery method imaginable. My path to better performance started with recovery drinks, but I layered in regular use of the following until discovering cryotherapy:
- Compression Apparel
- Foam / Massage Rollers
- Ice Baths
- Ultrasound Therapy
- Electrical Muscle Stimulation
- Working with Chiropractors and Physical Therapists
- Intermittent Pneumatic Compression (e.g. NormaTec or RecoveryPump)
- Sleep (up to 70-hours per week)
While each of the aforementioned practices are beneficial – some more than others – they pale in overall efficiency to cryotherapy, or cryo for short.
What is Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is basically an extreme version of an ice bath. The extreme cold (as low as -270° F; -168° C) induces vasoconstriction, which reduces inflammation, and promotes increased blood-flow. Both of which being key components to improved athletic recovery or general well-being. Best of all, this process takes as little as 90-seconds to 3-minutes.
The cryo chamber is a lot like a standing shower, but your head remains above the chamber’s walls, so it’s not claustrophobic. Prior to getting in, nitrous oxide is pumped throughout, drastically reducing the temperature. You then step in and the temperature is lowered into the negative triple digits. All the while, you’re kept company by a technician.
Wearing nothing more than underwear, gloves, and socks, it begins feeling tolerably cold. As the temperature plummets, shivering begins, and a slight numbness sets into your extremities. From there, a manageable burning-like sensation occurs on your skin. However, by the time that sensation has onset, it’s nearly time to get out and back into the cozy confines of your robe. Overall, it’s a painless experience.
Unlike an ice bath, you’ll warm quickly afterwards too.
What the Body Experiences
When exposed to such extreme temperatures, the body sends 80% of its blood to the core to protect its organs. When the body warms back up, vasodilation occurs and that process delivers oxygen-rich blood and nutrients back to the muscles. The process results in an endorphin rush. In other words, you’ll feel awesome!
While there hasn’t been a lot of scientific research to back the claims of cryotherapy, here’s a list of its benefits:
- Quicker recovery time
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased blood-flow
- Increased collagen production
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
I love it! While it is an intense experience, the way I feel afterwards is well worth 3-minutes of some discomfort.
While I’m not pursing athletics professionally anymore, I still workout frequently. Being that recovery time is often the hardest time to set aside, cryotherapy makes recovery convenient and effective. I get sessions done at Glacé Cryotherapy in Willow Glen. They have multiple locations in the Bay Area, as well as nationwide. Typically, I’d go after work, as it’s a whole body rejuvenation and feels great after a day at the desk.
Lastly, I’m far from the first person to do cryotherapy regularly. Tony Robbins, Lebron James, Floyd Mayweather, the New York Knicks, and the Dallas Mavericks are just a few notable examples.