My Adventure in Cryotherapy: The treatment that’s reportedly 4 times better than ice baths (read: FREEZING!!)

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit US Cryotherapy. I’d been hearing a bit about cryotherapy from a few places (ie: Oregon Project Runners getting a Cryosauna and more comically Usain Bolt’s little foot and frostbite situation) and the gist I’d gotten was that it was supposed to be more effective in speeding along muscle recovery than ice baths.

I knew of a few groups of elite runners getting in on the cryotherapy action and they found it beneficial. I mean we all know that Paula Radcliffe and plenty of other pros swear by ice baths immediately after their workouts; the draw of the cryotherapy chambers then, is that you get the same (if not more) benefits in less time. Reportedly the systems are four times more effective than the standard ice bath. So, how is it supposed to work in a few minutes instead of the 10-15 minutes of an ice bath??
cryotherapy chamber
It’s FLIPPING FRIGID!!! This is me coming out of the cryotherapy chambers after a bit over 2 1/2 minutes…I was a squealing mess. In fact, you can watch my entire cryotherapy adventure here…

Let me tell you, I was not prepared for how cold it actually was, partially because I tend to tune out when I hear lots of numbers and my temperature estimation is always way off…I feel like it’s cold when it’s under 70.

Fun Facts:
* US Cryotherapy is the only treatment center of it’s kind in the United States. Apparently there are more in Europe but they are just starting to make the trip abroad.
* Temperatures: -76° to-166°F
* Uses: speeds up muscle recovery and decrease inflammation
* How: 4 times colder than an ice bath, it will cause your veins to first constrict then re-open which causes blood to flow back to the treated areas and this leads to cellular repair
* I’d seen the videos of Dathan Ritzenhein going into a cryosauna chamber, so I thought I was going to go into a tube/pod thing with my head sticking out. I went into a room and this one is different in that it’s not gas-powered (liquid nitrogen) but rather, powered by electricity. With the gas you can’t have your head and shoulders being treated, but with the electric it is safe to do so. Also, with the electric chambers the temperature stays constant and is evenly distributed over your entire body versus the jets in the saunas.

Anyways, I went into the main (colder) chamber for 2 minutes (the max is 3 1/2) and afterward they have you do a bit of easy cardio just to get the blood moving again. While it was a punch to the gut shock to the system, I did warm back up pretty quickly and felt fine right after. I’d even say that I felt able to walk around and move again much faster than I’ve felt after any ice bath…you know the post-bath rigimortis shuffle. ;)

Last I went in and tried their localized treatments, here would be what you’d use on small areas experiencing soreness or any issues. (last part of the video) It felt like a hairdryer on my skin but with cold air…not nearly as cold as it felt in the chamber, and this little guy wasn’t even that hard to tolerate. I got it on my left quad and right hip flexor.

How would I say I feel after? Well, I feel fine and nothing starkly different either way; my hip flexor has been stiff/tight on an ongoing basis because of the ellipticaling I’ve been doing, hence the local treatment on it. I’d say the next day it was a little less sore, but there could be a little ‘power of suggestion’ thing going on in my mind. (Update: it’s now three days since and my right hip flexor is a lot less tight; funny, now it’s my left hip flexor, the non-treated side, that’s sore! haha…but that’s pretty usual, aren’t we all sore somewhere all the time when we workout regularly?? So it’s no biggie.)

The thing though, is that I’m not in heavy training and not with a real muscular injury so to speak. That said, I do honestly think that the therapy would be really beneficial if: 1) you go in after a hard workout 2) go in on a consistent basis (I didn’t expect a miracle after one trip) 3) have an acute or ongoing stiffness/soreness/muscle injury to get treated.

The verdict: we all know ice baths work…these chambers are supposed to be even more effective. They are incredibly cold but, the self-induced torture is only a minute or two…even this weather wimp could handle it. An ice bath is 15 minutes of torture AND you’re numb for awhile afterwards…given the option/luxury I’d pick the two minutes with cryotherapy…just saying.

The catch: Like I said, getting access to one is pretty difficult unless you are sponsored by Nike or another big company, or lucky enough to live in the Roseville, CA area. It is also a lot pricier than an ice bath, so it would be an investment. Which, if you’re not loaded with the extra fundage could be tricky and really only take a trip if you’re dealing with a real muscle problem (or one of the other specific injuries this works for) or in serious training mode and want to recover after an especially hard workout/race.

The Wow Factor: I have to say, the whole experience was pretty cool. I felt a little special, even though I’m not, and so props for the ego stroke…I mean it IS the only place in all of the United States after all. ;)

***Thanks to US Cryotherapy as I was given a complimentary treatment.

1) Had you heard anything about this cryotherapy treatment?

2) What are your thoughts, would you want to try it? Do you already use ice baths?

3) Honestly, I know I look like such a doof…but how do you handle -166 degree F??

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22 thoughts on “My Adventure in Cryotherapy: The treatment that’s reportedly 4 times better than ice baths (read: FREEZING!!)

  1. holy crap!!! um, that looks COLD lol, I definitely would’ve been screaming and jumping around too! I’d actually never heard of cryotherapy before – when you first posted about it on fb I was like “oh no is she ok?!?!” thinking you had some awful disease that needed to be frozen away or something hahaha. I would totally try this out! I’m not a fan of ice baths – I take them when I’m running a lot, but I haven’t done one during an XT/injury phase (should I?). I’ll admit going to the gas station, buying a bag of ice, and dumping it in your bathtub isn’t exactly the most convenient thing in the world haha. I agree, just like ice baths, a one-time treatment isn’t gonna work any miracles – it has to be a habit. I’d never shell out the $$ for this but if I had the opportunity to use it fo free I’d be all over it!

    • no, i’m the same way…i’m just xtraining right now so i don’t think i really ‘deserve’ to go in for the extra stuff…i mean gotta earn it…haha. jk ;)

  2. Okay, this is basically the coolest thing ever! I’m a big believer in ice baths but this is insanely cold, don’t know if I could handle it. In Europe at a lot of spas they have you alternate between warm water, cold water and FREEZING water for a lot of same reasons. I think it’s really interesting.

  3. Brave, brave lady.
    I doff my chickpea cap to you my dear :)
    I haven’t heard about cryotherapy before, and I am a little scared to give it a go when an ice bath and I are strangers as it is.
    I do use an ice pack on my heels when my Achilles gets inflamed. I even have a pack in the freezer at work, yep that got a few strange looks the first time someone wandered into my office when I was sitting down with my feet up :)

    • haha…do i look like the biggest dork or what?!?!
      hey, as runners we just have to accept the strange looks as they come and roll with it…would u like a little achilles ice in that iced tea?? ;)

  4. I’m not gonna lie, I was totally laughing at you running around in there. That looks awesome! But really painful. Still, I think it would be something that is really cool to try just to say you did, you know? I had never heard of it before! I’m an ice bath girl when the weather is warm. It’s kind of nice to get in one after you feel like you’ve been melting! During the winter though… uh good luck getting me in one of those!

  5. Don’t think I could tolerate that…ever. I can’t even stand the THOUGHT of an ice bath, much less -76 to -166 degree temps!! That’s insane! Thanks for the interesting and informative post, though. :)

    • wait…if memory serves correct u my friend are within ‘i’m gonna kidnap u and make u go into these chambers’ radius distance of roseville!! hehe. just kidding!!! ;)

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