Cryotherapy is said to soothe sore muscles.
By Kim Olsen | Published on October 17, 2018.
I’m dressed in nothing but a white robe and rubber booties when I step into the octagonal chamber. And the robe will soon go. A nice woman named Mary Lamb, who’s running the contraption, calmly shuts its door, leaving just my head peeking out the top. Now she tells me to pass her the bathrobe. I hand over the garment—and the last of my dignity—in exchange for a pair of chunky insulated wool gloves that match my booties. It’s time to freeze.
This was my first tango with cryotherapy, a treatment that involves stripping down and being whipped by liquid nitrogen that’s at least minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit. I went in knowing it’s part of LeBron James’s annual $1.5-million recovery routine during the long NBA season and that Michael Phelps did it before nabbing his 23rd Olympic gold medal in Rio in 2016.
As for how my athletically average self ended up in a cryo chamber? I had signed up to run a ten-mile race, ignoring the fact that my hourlong commute and commitment to the snooze button make training for these things a mostly weekend activity. My brilliant approach was to run every Sunday afternoon, tacking on a mile each week, starting with a comfortable base of four miles. But after zooming along the Mount Vernon Trail on a seven-mile run one Sunday, a series of out-of-town trips threw a kink into my plan. A week before the race, with the $85 registration fee and a decent amount of pride coloring my judgment, I embarked on a ten-mile run, just to see if I could do it.
Turns out I could. All seemed well until the next morning, when I was reminded that I was still an athletically average person. I nearly tipped over from the scorching pain in my calves as I got out of bed. In the 20 years I’d been running, this was new for me, even with some half marathons sprinkled in.
As the session started, I got goosebumps all over. Then my elbows began to ache, probably because they were closest to the walls from which the liquid nitrogen billowed. I felt slightly tense, a combined result of my muscles responding to the deep freeze and being locked in this contraption in the basement of a building in Old Town (the location I chose because it’s close to my apartment, and did I mention my legs hurt?). My teeth didn’t chatter as I thought they would, and overall the three minutes went pretty quickly, likely because Lamb, manager of the Old Town location, chatted with me—both a necessary distraction and a safety measure. In 2015, a Las Vegas woman tried cryotherapy alone in the spa where she worked, got trapped in the chamber, passed out, and died of suffocation from the liquid nitrogen, which expands to nearly 700 times its size when it vaporizes and can lead to oxygen deficiency, especially in small spaces.
When I was done, I didn’t experience any post-cryo high, and a dull ache lingered in my elbows. But any chill I walked out with disappeared in the balmy, mid-60s temps of the April afternoon. Climbing the steps out of the building, I was surprised that the sting I’d been feeling in my calves was 75 percent gone, with just a hint of soreness. By evening, nearly all the pain had subsided. As for better sleep, I didn’t notice any difference—which, as a poor sleeper, I was really looking forward to.
The next day, I visited the Shaw location. I’d bought the starter package, a two-pack that piggybacks appointments to maximize any benefits. Coward claims that stacking sessions closely together helps each person understand how his or her body will react to the treatment. I will say the second round didn’t seem nearly as cold as the first, probably because I knew what to expect. The three minutes—during which I chatted with the general manager, seemed to go by much faster. (He also tricked me, saying I had less time left than I actually did.) This time, the temperature outside was in the low 40s, and I understood what being chilled to the core felt like—I tried to walk to the Metro, turned around, and headed into a restaurant to warm up.
A few days later, on race day, my calves were 100 percent. I didn’t set a personal record in the ten-miler, but I crossed the finish line, pain-free. While I didn’t hallucinate the pain-relieving benefits of cryotherapy—there was no way I could have kicked it up the hill at mile nine if I hadn’t done it.
Read more in the original article here.