what is cryotherapy?
Updated: Sep 11
Five years ago, if someone asked me about cryotherapy, I would have envisioned some space-age contraption where huge dudes with muscles get into a chamber and come out looking like the terminator. Tis true, I have quite the imagination and perhaps have watched one too many sci-fi films; but even the name: cryotherapy, sounds gnarly AF. I certainly wasn’t aware of its healing properties or the fact that I, Amber who hates being cold, would find myself using it.
Just over a year ago, I was hit by a car as a pedestrian walking in a crosswalk. Petrifying experience. No broken bones, thankfully. However, I was in pain from my earlobe all the way down to my pinky toe. That night in the emergency room I remember nervously asking the on-call doctor “how will I feel tomorrow?” His 8 years of medical schooling responded with, “like you have been hit by a car”. Helpful and informative, dude. He told me to take ibuprofen and rest. Two things I hate: rest and taking medication.
The next morning, yes, I felt like hammered shit that had been hit by a car. I immediately made a cupping appointment in order to start the process of calming down all the inflammation in my body. When your entire body is pissed off and inflamed, it’s difficult to know which dumpster fire to tackle first. My longtime friend and therapist suggested I try cryotherapy, in conjunction with my other treatments, to assist in soothing the full body blaze. Due to how miserable I was feeling, I agreed to check it out.
What is cryotherapy and how does it work?
Cryotherapy, or otherwise known as “cold therapy”, is a technique where your body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes. It can be delivered to just one localized area, or your entire body. In my case, I needed whole f’ing body!
You stand in your underwear, socks and gloves, in a chamber that encloses everything except your head. Your body is blasted with cold air that measures between negative 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, you read that correctly – negative degrees here folks.
Next, you are being blasted with obnoxiously cold air and possibly starting to question your sanity. Whilst you are in the midst of an existential crisis, your body has its own emergency to tend to. Its reaction to the cold is to send itself into “fight or flight” mode. When this occurs, your blood circulation increases as more of it is being sent to your vital organs in order to maintain body temperature – aka your body thinks it’s about to die. Stay with me, I promise it gets better!
As your blood is increasing its circulation, your heart is now pumping in full force and sending more blood packed with nutrients and oxygen to cells across your entire body. Don’t worry you are so cold during all of this and waaayy too in your head to even notice all the shit that’s down inside your body. Ok, back to blood. The better your circulation, the better the cellar repair and organ function.
Why do we care about this? Welp Kranky Karen, aside from just wanting our bodies to be healthy? If we have inflammation trapped in our body and/or organ tissue, fresh nutrient-rich blood is unable to access those areas to repair and remove waste. (Waste meaning old blood, fluid, etc.)
When this occurs, our bodies become unstable. Unstable bodies are not able to heal and thus become vulnerable to disease, illness and further injuries. In order to maintain a stable consistent state (otherwise known as homeostasis), our bodies need to continuously be balanced and operating at their optimal level. Medication will not achieve homeostasis.
Thru cryotherapy, by reducing the inflammation and increasing my circulation, my body was able to take a breath and cycle nutrients to the regions where they were needed most. It was also able to flush out the buildup of waste surrounding my many soft tissue injuries. Due to the level of damage that was inflicted throughout my body at the time, I attended several cryotherapy sessions over a span of several weeks.
Truth be told, in the beginning, I would dread cryotherapy appointments. Not because they were bad, mostly because I knew as I parked my car, I was about to be cold as shit. However, the risk did not outweigh the reward. Upon my departure of cryotherapy appointments, I would feel more alert (near death experiences will do that to ya – I kid!) and noticed a decrease in my swelling, tension/pain. My anxiety and depression symptoms would drastically subside after each session. Additionally, I noticed that my skin coloring improved week over week after each cryotherapy appointment.
Cryotherapy absolutely helped my body heal faster from the accident and I highly recommend you trying it if you suffer from inflammation, arthritis pain, migraines, anxiety or even skin conditions. Cryotherapy also boosts your immune system – trust me you need this!