When you strip down to your boxers and socks, and willingly enclose yourself in a large chamber that you know is going to freeze a majority of the skin on your body, I assure you, there is a moment of second-guessing.
I had read about cryotherapy chambers and had seen videos of celebrities and athletes trying it out. When I found out that The Chiropractors (Springfield) had one of these machines in my hometown, I thought, Why not see what all the fuss is about? So I set up an appointment and went in to try out its cryotherapy booth (also known as a cryosauna) and some of its other high-tech devices, which are geared toward athlete rehab and recovery.
The chamber uses liquid nitrogen gas (in bursts) to drop the interior of the cylinder to temps of about -220 degrees Fahrenheit. (Yes, I did type that correctly.) The entire process lasts about two and a half minutes from start to finish. This turned out to be long enough to really hit that level of unbearable cold while at the same time giving me a sense of hope that there was indeed going to be a reprieve.
One thing that made it more bearable was that there was a gradual buildup in the cooling process. You didn’t just jump straight into the -200 temps (swimming-pool style); the temp started off at about -100 and then lowered to -160 and so forth. During this time, Ashley, who was in charge of running the chamber, reminded me to rotate every few seconds so that I wouldn’t incur frostbite. Also, while some of the chambers are fully enclosed, this one was open at the top and my head, neck and both hands were above the freezing temps below. Wearing socks kept my toes from freezing and falling off, and my boxers protected, well, the area they were supposed to protect.
I’ve never taken off my clothes and walked outside during some of our famous -50-degree winter wind-chill days, but I would have to guess that the cryotherapy chamber was very similar to an experience to that. Once I was informed that I had bottomed out (temperaturewise), it was all about the clock. Just like a CrossFit workout, time seems to slow when you are struggling. It wasn’t painful — it was more of just an overall numbing sensation.
When I got in, Ashley informed me that she’d remind me to turn when it was time to rotate because once I reached the max temperature, my body would go into survival mode and forget to turn. At the time, I thought this was not going to happen, until the -200s hit. I was definitely shivering from head to toe but concentrating on her saying “turn” gave me something to focus on aside from the numbness I was experiencing from the waist down.
The point of this whole process is not to see whether you can last two and a half minutes in freezing temps. The therapy chamber is designed to help with muscle recovery and fatigue, and to promote the healing of acute ailments.
Once I thawed out, I felt incredible. Any soreness or discomfort from that morning’s workout was definitely gone. I felt like I wanted to run around the building and lift up a car in the parking lot! For those moments that followed, all the cold and freezing I had briefly endured seemed totally worth it.
If you’ve been curious about this new type of treatment, I’d recommend giving it a try. If anything, it certainly was a … cool experience.
Have you ever thought of trying cryotherapy? Is there any type of new therapies or recovery techniques that you’ve found? Share your experiences in the comments.
Thanks to Dr. Mike Jones, Ashley and all the people at The Chiropractors (Springfield) and the Springfield Wellness and Recovery Center.
Stay on the Grind.