Summary: Cryotherapy is a fairly new trend in the wellness industry. It is 3 minutes in freezing -115 degrees and a unique experience to try. I talk about my personal experience and some of the possible benefits of regular therapy.

Cryotherapy: a new wellness trend at -115 degrees   

I’ve been hearing about this new treatment around town: You stand in just your boxers in a freezing cell that contains the temperature of -115 degrees for a couple of minutes and apparently, it does a world of good to you. Famous Hollywood stars like Anthony Robbins, Joe Rogan, Kate Moss, Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston, LeBron James and Floyd Mayweather all praise Cryotherapy. They say it helps them to reduce muscle pain, boost the imune system and keep the blood flowing. Remember Daniel Craig when he had his insanely toned muscular body in Skyfall? He said it was all due to his intense training regime, combined with Cryotherapy

So here I am, ready be persuaded by the guys from Freezlab in Amsterdam as I am yet to find out more about the benefits of Cryotherapy one week into my appointment. After researching the effects, I found out it can help with healing muscle pain, as well as supporting weight loss and boosting energies. Apparently, the list of benefits is longer than this. Well, boys and gals, I didn’t need more encouragement to challenging the sub zeros so I decided to book myself in for my first cryo session.

On the day of the test freeze!

I am giddy with excitement and before I show up for the cryotherapy I make an effort to read up a bit on what is about to happen to my body in reality. Got it, first timer male customers worry about their private bits and shrinkage. Upon my fairly extensive research (not directly researching the effects of cryo on male anatomy) but rather to understand how my skin and lungs (ahem, those are my priorities…) will be dealing with the sudden temperature drop. Rest assured we are destined to survive the 3 minutes treatment, but of course, make sure you are healthy and with no existing condition to start with… Bastiaan Swager, co-founder from Freezlab assures me there are no risks if I follow the instructions from the Freezmasters, which sounds good enough for me. I am ready to do this! Before I am ready to dive in, I first have to complete a checklist to see if my body is able to withstand the intense cold. Bastiaan and the Freezmaster, check my blood pressure to see if I am okay, and hand me the Freezlab gear necessary to make this session into a succes but more about that later.

A few facts about Cryotherapy

A Japanese doctor called Toshima Yamauchi invented the process in the 1970s . His goal was to find treatment for arthritis, pain management, and muscle recovery. Although not quite in this extreme settings, athletes use ice baths successfully for a long time with similar purposes. Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen or very cold air, which is applied in a specialized chamber (that looks a bit like those freezing cell, you see in Butchers or Wholesalers). The idea is that the entire body including the head is exposed to freezing temperatures, which is generated by way of cooling the air in a circuit.

What are the benefits of cryotherapy? Does it work at all?

The cryo world is divided into two groups; one that swears on its positive effects and regularly uses the treatment (including thousands of athletes, Hollywood stars and of course our Dutch National pride Wim Hoff) and the other group consisting of non-believers. There has not been many test yet on the proven effects of Cryotherapy, however the ones out there, speak in favor for the treatment.  It is clear that same as with any exercise, regular treatments are encouraged. If you are fueled by curiosity and you go for just one session you will have an amazing experience as it is quite a shock to you body. However the most you will get out of your visit is a refreshing session, and a good story to tell your friends.

If you commit to regular cryo a they call it, you more likely will benefit from the effects. It also suffices to say that there isn’t a lot of medically backed research out there yet. After all, it is a fairly new method, a lot of people talk about it for sure, but I stumbled upon more user experiences than proven results. That’s why I sign up for a month at Freezlab in order to combine it’s treatment with my new Marathon training.

Possible, but not guaranteed benefits:

  • Reducing inflammation. By reducing chronic inflammation we can avoid various health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, dementia, and depression. Successfully used in medicine, treatments with cold temperature seems to have short- and long-term benefits against chronic pain.
  • Pain relief and muscle recovery. Cryotherapy helps to manage muscle pain, arthritis, and muscle recovery. As ice packs have served well in the past, this new type of treatment helps locally or for the full body to improve circulation, healing and pain relief.
  • Improving symptoms of eczema: the treatment of extremely cold temperatures help to improve eczema symptoms such as redness, itchiness, and dry skin patches.
  • Reducing depression and anxiety. Similarly to acute inflammation, cryotherapy can have positive effects on the existing condition of depression or anxiety. Won’t guarantee to heal an existing condition its own but a helpful support at making people feel better.
  • Weight Loss. There is no magic there, you won’t shed a few pounds after a single cryo session but cryotherapy supports weight loss through the cold air forcing your body to work harder to keep a steady temperature.
  • Increased metabolism. The body goes through a certain shock during the therapy while also releases catecholamines such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, as well as neuropeptides. (There isn’t any medical test or confirmation, however, after just one treatment, I felt great. Not only upbeat and sort of happier than my usual self but also energized and mentally ready to take the day.)
  • Cancer prevention and treatment. There is no documentation of proven success, but as cryotherapy can help reduce inflammation, it can also help cancer prevention. Medicine uses cryotherapy locally to freeze cancer cells on the skin.

Risks of Cryotherapy

The sessions are short and the operators follow rules and regulations. Hence there aren’t many risks in doing cryo. Having said the word regulated. Specifically trained professionals, called freezmasters assisting the sessions are the keys to safety. Health benefits may vary depending on how regularly you use it. How your body reacts and for what reasons you sign up for regular therapy. Of course, as with any other treatments, with existing medical conditions or pregnancy do not attempt to do cryotherapy without consulting your doctor first.

Let’s see what really happens at Cryo:

Upon being fixed up with socks, gloves, funky looking moonboots, and the fantastic explanation by Bastiaan and the Freezmaster I am ready to start my session. The equipment looks out of this world with white fog-like liquid nitrogen floating around. I get into the first cabin, where the temperature drops to -60 degrees. The plan is to stay in this cabin for 20 second and then to enter the next one where the temperature drops to -115 degrees. This is where the magic happens, I start to feel the blood pumping through my body and there is a strange euphoric feeling going through my head. It is that they are playing ‘Ice Ice Baby’ through the speakers in the cabin so I am triggered to dance. But also the  fact the staff guides me via the mic, during the whole process help a lot.  As the temperature drops, I get a bit panicky about breathing but it passes quickly. There is certainly some pressure that I feel on my chest but it is not unbearable or scary. Just feels strange but I quickly ignore this feeling as the cold starts to seep into my bones. I wonder how I will get through the next 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Yikes, it’s seriously cold in there.

My skin tingles and I hop around unceremoniously. I am waiting for a time traveler to sweep me out of this darn box. I am strongly focusing on my breathing. The lady who is assisting my sessions keeps me informed about how (slowly) the clock is ticking. Towards the end, I start to feel some kind of strange euphoria, perhaps the knowledge of making it and surviving the sub 140 degrees.  After the session, I could still feel the cold in my bones and try to collect my thoughts. Wow, I feel like walking on a cloud, light and fresh, and comparing my accomplishment to running a half marathon. I did it!

How do I feel afterward?

The happy state visibly lasted through the day and my skin gloved with a healthy look. My mood was positive and elevated for days too. My back, that I certainly felt before the treatment (because I am spending long days hunched over my laptop, editing our recently launched ) didn’t hurt anymore after I got out of the machine.  After the treatment, I felt refreshed, and sort of as I had a good hour of workout in the gym. I am patting myself on the back for having tried this treatment.

I had high energy levels until the end of the day to the point that I wasn’t sure I would be able to go to sleep on time. Instead, as soon as I hit the pillow I was out for good. I had a solid 9 hours sleep without waking up in the night. Some people sleep 10-12 hours without any effort, but I am not one of those. As I am a light sleeper, for me 9 hours of sleep is like once in a year. With jet lag. After traveling for 2 days without any sleep. Officially loving cryotherapy and promising myself to certainly go back!

What I think…

For me the bigges result ofcryotherapy has been that whenever I went in that first week I felt upbeat and energized for days after the treatment which was great. Getting through busy and often stressful workdays with an extra punch of energy sans extra caffeine is something many of us can appreciate. I also felt that my muscles were lest sore, if I went running or gymming the morning or afternoon before. The last benefit I felt All in all, I am glad I’ve tried it. Will be back for more, perhaps not daily but certainly regularly. If you have any questions about cryotherapy, feel free to contact me! I will be doing a podcast with Bastiaan Swager later this month and where we go deeper into the benefits and a real time experience of the Cryo Session.