What Is Cryotherapy & How Can It Help Me?
In the buzz of body hacking, fitness gurus, and social media, cryotherapy has grown in popularity over the last five years. Is it worth the buzz, though? Based on both the science and first-hand experience, we think it is. Cryotherapy activates the body's cold-shock response, which then can help reduce pain and inflammation while simultaneously improving your mood and supporting a healthy immune system.
We’re going to cover the basics of cryotherapy, the science and safety measures behind it, and also answer frequently asked questions so you can feel confident for your first Bay Area cryotherapy session.
What Is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy uses nitrogen gas to activate the body’s cold-shock response in a quick, three-minute session. During these three minutes, blood rushes to your core and your metabolism will increase in an effort to regulate body heat.
As your body recovers from the session, blood returns to your extremities with more oxygen. It is also carrying newly released neurotransmitters that support decreased inflammation, increased collagen production, improved mood, better focus, and an accelerated recovery.
Each cryotherapy session uses the nitrogen gas to gently surround you at a temperature between –165 and –220 degrees. This cools your body’s temperature down to begin the cold-shock response. Once the three minutes are over, you’ll leave feeling energized as your body begins to warm back up.
Type of Cryotherapy
There are three types of cryotherapy, each with their own benefits.
Whole body cryo is most common. This involves entering a large chamber with just your undergarments, gloves, socks, and face mask. It also offers the most benefits, because it treats your entire body.
Local cryotherapy focuses on one area that needs the most support. This is ideal if you’re recovering from injury, and is much more efficient and powerful than icing. Local cryo sessions are up to twelve minutes, yet are comparable to hours of icing.
Facial cryotherapy is a gentle way to support collagen production in the deeper levels of the skin, leaving it visibly smoother and plumper. These sessions can increase the skin’s capacity to rejuvenate itself by regaining elasticity, appearing smoother, and giving you a youthful glow.
The Science Behind Cryotherapy
While cryotherapy may seem like something out of a science fiction novel, the science has shown that it has real merit, specifically with mood improvement, vigilance, focus, and attention. Dr. Rhonda Patrick has a Ph.D. in biomedical science who focuses on nutritional health, brain health, and aging, and has dedicated her career to reviewing promising scientific advancements.
She published a thorough report in 2016 reviewing how cold shock therapy launches the body’s hardwired adaptive processes, called hormesis. When used in the correct doses, those adaptive processes and response mechanisms create resilience that exceeds the cold-shock needed to counter the initial stimuli.
This exposure to extreme cold temperatures also increases norepinephrine, the driver in mental acuity in addition to increasing cold-shock proteins, which repair damaged synapses and prevent muscle atrophy.
Safety Precautions for Cryotherapy
Even though cryotherapy may initially seem intense, a trained staff ensures that it’s a quick, safe recovery technique. Safety precautions like gloves, socks, and a face mask helps you safely experience all the benefits of cryotherapy.
Staff members will ensure that you have everything you need before entering the chamber, and you can make eye contact with them if you need help at any point.
Conditions That Cryotherapy Supports
There are a wide range of conditions that can be supported by cryotherapy, including:
Overall wellness and vitality
Pain and inflammation
Athletic recovery and performance
Metabolism and fat burning
Improved Immune Function
Overall Wellness & Vitality
Cryotherapy lowers inflammation, which can boost immune function and blood flow to help you feel your best. It’s a one-stop shop for a full-body “reset” that will leave you feeling refreshed and energized for the rest of the day and even the week!
Pain & Inflammation
Did you know that cryotherapy was invented as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis? Because it’s effective at lowering inflammation and increasing collagen levels, it can help each aches and pains associated with joint and muscle conditions as well as general movement.
Athletic Recovery & Performance
One of the most common benefits people experience is improved muscle recovery, which supports improved future performance. In fact, Dr. Rhonda Patrick found that, when elite runners engaged in whole body cryotherapy after a hill sprint, they had a 20% increase in speed and power for up to two days later.
Whether you’re an everyday athlete or training for your next performance, cryotherapy can help you train stronger and perform at a higher level.
Cryotherapy offers more than a physical boost. Regular sessions have been shown to increase norepinephrine levels by up to five times, which regulates vigilance, focus, attention, and mood. We recommend scheduling morning cryo sessions for vibrant energy throughout the day.
Because cryotherapy is anti-inflammatory, it also supports anti-aging. It’s a natural and effective treatment to stave off wrinkles and skin aging by reducing the skin inflammation that contributes to the aging process.
Increase Metabolism & Burn Fat
Any time the body is subjected to cold, metabolism increases so your vital organs are kept warm. Your metabolism is also responsible for how your body burns calories, which contributes to fat loss.
Over the course of a three-minute full body cryo session, you can burn over 400 calories.
Improved Immune Function
Cryotherapy also supports your immune system. Because immunity is negatively impacted by inflammation, reducing that inflammation through regular cryo sessions will also support a more powerful immune system to get you through cold and flu season.
Is Cryotherapy Safe for Everyone?
While cryotherapy is a safe technique, there are some conditions where cryotherapy should be avoided. These include:
Severe Hypertension (BP> 160/100)
Acute or recent myocardial infarction
Unstable angina pectoris
Symptomatic cardiovascular disease
Peripheral arterial occlusive disease
Acute or recent cerebrovascular accident
Symptomatic lung disorders
Acute kidney and urinary tract diseases
Additionally, parental consent is needed to treat those under 18 years old. If you have any concerns, we always recommend checking with your doctor before starting a new treatment regimen.
What to Expect in Your First Cryotherapy Session
We always want our clients to feel confident when trying new treatments, so your first session is designed to educate you on the service and guide you through so you have an enjoyable and safe experience.
First, you’ll sign our waiver and watch our introduction video. This provides some additional information about the treatment. Then, you’ll change into a robe, wool socks, gloves, and a facemask. It’s important that you are completely dry before heading to the cryo chamber.
Third, you’ll choose your temperature and your music. For those new to cryotherapy, we recommend starting with a warmer temperature-comparatively-until you acclimatize to the treatment.
Once the music is chosen, you’ll enter the chamber, hand us your robe, and your three minutes will begin. As the nitrogen gas begins to fill the chamber, you can rotate and dance. (We recommend dancing. It helps the time go by quickly!)
Once you’re finished, we’ll hand you the robe back and you’ll have an opportunity to lounge with some tea while warming up and enjoying the post-cryotherapy glow.
What to Expect in Your First Local Cryotherapy Session
In your first local cryotherapy session, you will sign our waiver and watch our introductory video. Then you will be taken to the treatment room, where you will remove any clothing needed to access the joint or muscle group that needs some attention.
Your technician will begin moving the nitrogen gas around the affected area. For tender skin or joints, it is a gentle process and the wand will not actually touch your skin.
The session is up to 12 minutes long, after which you will dress and begin to feel the positive effects of cryotherapy on the affected area.
What to Expect in Your First Facial Cryotherapy Session
Your first facial cryotherapy session is similar to local cryotherapy. You will sign our waiver and watch our introductory video, then be taken back to our treatment room. You’ll remove any jewelry, and lay down on our treatment bed.
Our Cryo Glow Facials are twelve minutes, during which a technician will gently blow the nitrogen gas onto your face, never keeping it in one space for too long.
After the twelve minutes, you’ll be ready to go on your way with glowing skin. Because this is a non-invasive facial technique, there is no downtime and you can schedule it between meetings or other appointments.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cryotherapy
While cryotherapy has grown in popularity over the last few years, we always want to make sure that you feel prepared and empowered before your first cryo session. These are some of our frequently asked questions about this treatment.
How Many Treatments Should I Do?
We recommend five to ten treatments spaced one to two days apart to maximize your results. After this initial treatment plan, you can move to once every one to two weeks to maintain your results.
Can I Float and Cryo in the Same Day?
Yes! In fact, we highly recommend it. You’ll start with cryotherapy, which will boost your energy, and then end with a float session, which will leave you feeling zen and relaxed. If you want even more mental support, we recommend scheduling a sauna session between your cryo and float.
Is Cryotherapy Painful?
Most people do not find cryotherapy painful. In fact, most leave with a smile on their face! As the body begins to recover at room temperature you will feel some tingling in your arms and legs, but most do not find this painful.
If you want to leave the cryo chamber at any time during your treatment, you can, but it rarely happens.
How Will I Feel After Cryotherapy?
You will feel happy, rejuvenated, and energetic due to the endorphins released during the cryo session. The mood-boosting support from each session can last for days after, and this boost is one of the best parts about regular cryotherapy sessions.
Over the next 24 hours, you will begin to feel the positive physical impact as well, with less muscle soreness and pain.
Are there really mental benefits to cryotherapy?
Yes! This is one of the benefits our clients talk about most. The clarity and energy that comes from regular cryo sessions can at times have more of an impact than the physical. If you want a mental boost and don’t have time for a workout, cryo can help you get it.
I’m a Casual Runner and Yogi. Would cryotherapy help me?
Absolutely! While casual, everyday athletes may not need cryotherapy as often as those completing strenuous activity every day, cryotherapy can still help you recover from a particularly tough week of running or as a way to reset after a new-to-you yoga class.
What Do I Wear During the Session?
Due to the extreme temperature of the cryo chamber, each person enters wearing a robe, dry socks, gloves, a facemask, and underwear. All jewelry must be removed, and women need to avoid bras with metal wire, as this could burn the skin from the cold. You remove the robe once you get into the chamber to maximize the system-wide benefits.
Why Do I Need to Wear a Facemask?
It’s important to avoid breathing in the nitrogen gas, and the facemask helps reduce this during your cryo session.
Do I Have to Shower Before or After?
Unlike floating or sauna, cryotherapy is completely dry and showing will not affect its efficacy.
Are Your Ready for Your Cryotherapy Session?
Whether you’re an avid runner, an everyday athlete, yogi, looking to get through cold and flue season, or recovering from an injury, cryotherapy is a valuable way to recover and rejuvenate. Our three types of cryo – full-body, local, and glow facial – utilize the science behind cold shock therapy to feel better, faster.
To schedule your first appointment, give us a call at (415) 800-2011 or book online at one of our three Bay Area locations and we’ll be happy to walk you through your session so you feel safe and confident.