A sharp, excruciating pain which would not only penetrate my skin but gnaw into the very marrow of my bones. This was what I expected Cryotherapy would feel like. So why was I prepared to subject my body to a temperature of -150oC when my imagination foretold scenarios in which pain was the least of my worries?
I stumbled upon the health benefits of cold immersion by accident. A simple post on Facebook piqued my curiosity and led to months of research on cold immersion and its benefits on health, immunity, weight loss, sports recovery and pain management. (This research led to a published article in the February 2017 edition of GOOD HEALTH magazine about harnessing the power of cold for weight loss.)
Always determined to do the best for my health, I started taking cold showers, working my way up from 10 seconds to 10 minutes with the occasional ice bath thrown in.
So, when I found out about cryotherapy, it seemed like the next logical step in my cold journey.
“What is Cryotherapy?” I hear you ask. Cryotherapy is a procedure which involves being submerged in liquid nitrogen fumes up to the neck, with the head held above the cryogenic chamber. The temperature is regulated to around -150oC with one treatment lasting anywhere between 30 seconds and three minutes.
“Why, oh why, would anyone do this?” is probably your next question. It could be for any number of reasons: weight loss, sports recovery, pain management. In fact, there is plenty of research on cryotherapy and its effectiveness in reducing pain for sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis.
But back to my cryo experience…
At the time that I was researching my article I learnt that Cryo, a whole-body cryotherapy centre, was opening just an hour’s drive from my home. After making some enquiries on the basis of research, I was given a free trial session.
I was greeted in the foyer by owner, Jacob Ohlson, who offered me a grand tour of the centre before my actual session.
The centre is a sleek and well-designed space which looks as though it has been lifted straight out of a blockbuster, sci-fi movie set. Doors which slide open at the touch of a computer screen and white walls framed with blue LED lights give the sense that I am in some place, other than Sydney, in a time, other than now.
Beautiful, white embroidered bathrobes, fluffy warm slippers and gloves add a touch of homely realism to this futuristic set-up.
With the tour over, and wearing my comfortable bathrobe, slippers and gloves I was taken to the cryo chamber where we discussed temperature and duration options. I wasn’t prepared to go to the most extreme option: -180oC for three minutes so we agreed on a “warmer” -150oC for 90 seconds.
Stepping into the chamber, my pain receptors were on high alert while my brain was madly trying to remember what lunacy had brought me to my current situation. Jacob demonstrated that once inside the chamber, the door is easily pushed open if the cold becomes too intense. The availability of this emergency exit provided much relief to my over-excitable brain.
Inside the chamber, the client stands on a platform which is elevated to a level where the shoulders reach the top of the chamber whilst the head and neck are held above the unit. This prevents the nitrogen from being inhaled. Apparently, scary things can happen to your lungs if you inhale liquid nitrogen fumes. But we won’t go there…
And then it was on. As the nitrogen mist swirled around my body and neck, I felt as if I was in some ethereal world where one would expect to see fairies and angels or, at the very least, men in spacesuits.
As I breathed in deeply, calming my body and mind, I waited for the imagined, excruciating pain to begin.
But it wasn’t excruciating!
Was it cold? Yes.
In the last 20 seconds of the session, I started to feel the pain of the cold but the pain in my imagination far exceeded the minimal pain I felt.
What my imagination had not conjured up however was the absolute exhilaration I would feel when my session was complete. My skin tingled as my body temperature quickly returned to normal and I found myself feeling nothing short of amazing.
Would I do it again? Most definitely. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.
Maybe next time I’ll go for the full three minutes!
Cryo is located in Edgecliff, Sydney. You can contact them on cryo.com.au
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