A surprising experiment with cryotherapy
May 13th, 2017 | 2 Comments
The things we do to keep our bodies strong…
We’ve all done hot saunas, then freezing cold plunges. We’ve all iced sore parts of our bodies to combat inflammation.
But with frozen liquid nitrogen wafting around your body, unconsciously stomping your sock-covered feet and clapping your wool-gloved hands to simulate warmth, this was an experience unto itself.
Why do this you might sensibly ask?
I ended up trying this as I do with many wellness or functional medicine procedures I’m drawn to. I go to address some specific medical concern, then let it push me to something more holistic, more generalized.
This is how I started using acupuncture and Chinese medicine years ago to treat muscle pain after long days skiing.
In this instance, a 10-minute spot treatment of the same -240 degree cold on a chronic case of fasciitis in one foot was the thing that got me in the door.
This problem was not going away without surgery, so I simply ignored it as best I could, and spent evenings with ice packs underfoot and wine in glass for solace and looked for other solutions. (Thanks to Lianna for this one.)
I can honestly say that ice packs are gone and 85% of the pain with them. A once a week, 10-minute, $40 treatment basically gives me back a New Yorker’s life. Work out at dawn, walk everywhere all the time for long days and nights.
It simply works.
It was that unqualified success that got me to do the full immersion in the picture at the top of the post.
For some context, the practice of cryotherapy started in Japan in the 1970s, then migrated east with a foothold in Northern Europe and now is in most urban centers. Many in NYC.
While traditionally cold therapy and cryotherapy are used in sports medicine, clinical studies are spotty as proof points. Like most non-medical therapies, people do it cause it either works for them or they don’t.
The science behind cryotherapy goes something like this–
During a session, blood vessels in your skin’s surface and muscle tissue constrict, forcing blood toward your core where the body’s natural filtration system works to remove toxins and inflammatory properties of the blood.
Then the filtered ﬂows back to the peripheral tissues, cleaner and enriched with oxygen, nutrients, and enzymes. Skin and muscles are consequently enriched and healed.
Or in simpler terms, your brain thinks you are freezing and your central nervous system triggers an anti-inflammatory response. The rationale is that it purifies, boosts immune system activity, increases metabolism and energy.
People who know me personally know that I’m as wellness fanatic with exercise, nutrition, and mental conditioning as the keys to ensuring that our longer life spans today end up in the middle of life, not the end.
For spot cold therapy for injuries or chronic pain connected to tendons and ligaments or muscle fatigue, this demonstrably works.
For the Full Monty, 3-minute whole body immersion, we shall see. I’m in the first 24 hours of this and after feeling a bit spacey, and very slow to warm, I’m feeling a strong sense of maybe on this.
There’s a spring in my step and a flush to my skin that makes me optimistic that what works for an injury can work for a whole approach to my body and well being.
I’m going to keep at this for a bit on a weekly basis to see what my body tells me.
So far, surprisingly so good.
I’m optimistic to the point that I’m starting to search out places for this treatment on my upcoming travels.
A thank you to my local shop, Kryogenis in Tribeca for being so generous with letting me try these out.