If you played competitive sports in high school or college, you remember the tremendously cold post game ice baths. I played basketball, and despite my propensity for making free throws, I was never the star on the team. Lisa, my teammate, was, and thus she always got first dibs on icing her sore bod. But, then I tore my rotator cuff, had surgery, started physical therapy and, alas, first rights to the ice bath tubs were all mine! The purpose of these freezing and highly unpleasant sessions was to constrict my blood vessels, drive out extra fluid around my injury, decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation, and hopefully increase the speed of healing.
One of the hottest wellness trends of late, whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) makes these ice-baths sessions seem like child's play. While ice baths are on average around 46 degrees, cryotherapy chambers are chilled to -270 degrees Fahrenheit. Participants strip down to their undergarments, step into a chamber straight out of Star Trek, and literally trick their body into hypothermia for 3 minutes.
WBC clients report a host of benefits including skin revitalization, increased metabolism, pain relief, decreasing muscle soreness, anxiety, and depression, improving blood circulation, and improved sleep. WBC has also been reported to soothe arthritis, nerve and tendon pain, help with fibromyalgia symptoms, Lyme disease, lupus, and chronic fatigue.
While this might seem like a new fad, WBC has actually been around for decades. In 1978, a Japanese rheumatologist discovered that subjecting his patients to extreme cold helped with their arthritis pain. WBC has been used in medical settings since, and recently has become more mainstream in the States thanks to professional athletes who tote WBC as a way to decrease recovery time and increase performance.
Molly and I checked out Tao Float Loft in Mariemont to experience cryo for ourselves. The staff member working with us was extremely helpful, supportive, and informative. She made the process way less intimidating.
I went first. Real talk, it was cold, but it wasn’t unbearable. The treatment lasts 3 minutes, and typically an employee stays in the room with you to talk to you during as a distraction. We did live video stream of me in the chamber which kept my mind off my shivering limbs. My teeth chattered. Molly’s didn’t. There was large clock counting down the seconds, and once it hit zero I hopped out. My skin was red and definitely cold to the touch, but as I warmed up I felt refreshed. Do you know the feeling of jumping into a freezing cold body of water? At first it stings and shocks, but then it feels so, so good. For me, cryo felt like that.
Proponents swear by the treatment. You can get monthly memberships, and Molly’s old coworker used to go daily as a recovery method. It is definitely something we want to work into our health routine, and might be helpful for you after a long run, or if you’re experiencing an injury. If you try it out, let us know what you think!