Ice Baths are to Cryotherapy what a nap is to a full nights sleep
In the last year of operation, we at CryoStudio have grown to love cryotherapy more than we did when we first were introduced (although it was love at first sight/try). We often describe it like “chocolate”. How do you tell someone how chocolate tastes? You don’t – you have them try it for themselves. As is the case with cryotherapy, you will only get it if you get in and try it for yourself.
Furthermore, to be completely fair to the therapy – you have to be willing to give it an honest effort. What does an honest effort mean? Well, it doesn’t mean getting in for one therapy session (2.5 minutes) and expecting miracles. One session will show you what to expect and in a high percentage of people, will yield amazing results. But if you want those results to last longer, or if you have a pretty serious injury, condition or level of pain or soreness- then we recommend committing to 5 sessions, all of which should be completed within a couple of days of each other.
If you want to learn about the MANY (so, so many) benefits of cryotherapy first hand, we highly recommend it. Take advantage if you are privileged enough to have one in your city, because there are still only around 20 in the country.
But rather than focusing on the benefits, this blog post is about common misconceptions:
Whole Body Cryotherapy is not a glorified ice bath. It is not a more expensive ice bath. It is not an ice bath at all. I doesn’t involve water submersion, the temperatures are out of this world different (no, really – cryotherapy temperatures are that of outer space), it doesn’t involve cooling the soft tissue, it is not painful and miserable and hated by many. More broadly – an ice bath is pretty good at decreasing inflammation (I lived in a big whirlpool of ice water for at least 30 minutes after very many collegiate track practices, and I absolutely knew why I was putting myself through the misery – it helped!). But aside from decreasing inflammation and therefore relieving SOME pain in the muscles, the ice bath offers no other benefits. (It does offer TONS of issues though – not the least of which is staph infection, and hygienic issues). As the title reads, comparing an ice bath and what it does for the body to Cryo is like comparing the rest and recovery your body gets from 10 minutes of sleep versus a full night’s sleep.
This analogy may be confusing for some since Cryo is only 2.5 minutes while an icebath exceeds 20, so let me explain. The healing of cryotherapy does not occur in those few minutes of the treatment. That’s right – those cold 2-3 minutes are simply a stimulus.
Think of it this way – its similar to exercise. Adaptation occurs during recovery. The workout? Not a whole lot of good stuff going on there – muscles microtearing (that’s what that soreness comes from), oxygen levels peaking and dropping, metabolic disturbance, a bunch of things that, physiologically, your body doesn’t exactly appreciate. However, when you stop (and you refuel and recover appropriately) your body will love you as it morphs into a stronger, healthier and more active body. Once you complete your cryo session, your body also loves you once more (during the session, it’s a little shocked!
Which leads us to the first common misconception. Cryo does not hurt. I know you’ve read about athletes doing the “crazy” “painful” cold treatments. Sensational headlines sell, we get it. But truth is, cryo is not even uncomfortable for most folks. It may be for some (everyone’s cold tolerance is different) – but so is soreness, pain, inflammation, overweight, metabolic syndrome, arthritis and the slew of other reasons people seek help here. Remember, it’s only 2.5 minutes. And if you need a marker to identify just how uncomfortable it is or isn’t: everyone we have treated who has also sat in a vat of ice water will tell you it’s nowhere near as uncomfortable as that.
The premise behind the dry, cold nitrogen gas – it doesn’t penetrate the skin’s surface more than 1/2mm into the skin. It just gets the skin’s cold receptors cold – sending a stimulus to the brain and causing some pretty wonderful reactions. One of those is the constriction of the peripheral arteries which sends blood directly to the core (gotta protect the important organs, the body decides). So body core temperature can be elevated, not decreased. While there, the blood picks up more nutrients, faster, than it normally would.
The session stops and your body is reintroduced into room temperature environment, causing those constricted little blood passageways to dilate tremendously (this is why we see, sometimes, a temporary increase in blood pressure systolically).
What happens next is the body’s amazing ability to heal itself.
Systems check in the brain: what hurts, what’s not working, where is their inflammation, what needs repair?
Another misconception is that the whole body does not need to be treated if the whole body is not in pain. Cryotherapy addresses any and all issues you may have in your entire body with one treatment. Still not convinced you need the whole body treated? Talk to a chiropractor, a physical therapist, an athletic trainer or an orthopedist about false symptomatic pain. I bet they will tell you that they see a large number of clients who complain of knee pain, address knee pain directly and see no results – only to find out that their knee pain was caused by a tight IT band, hip misalignment, over compensations, spinal alignment, etc. Pain is not always a good indicator of the problem area.
My favorite thing about cryotherapy? It’s not a high-tech and new-age as it sounds. Cold is a sound, proven, age-old technology. But with science, we have been lucky enough to create this simple yet effective stimulus that kick-starts the body’s own natural healing process(es). And no matter the studies, the critics, the nay-sayers, the pessimists or cynics – your body knows itself better than anyone else. And my body, as well as those of our clients – trust and love the healing that their body provides them, courtesy of cryotherapy.