Cryother­apy: will life in the freezer suit me?

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

The world di­vides into those who ski and those who pre­fer to run around naked in the snow. Both, it turns out, are vi­able hol­i­day op­tions. If the lat­ter – or, more ac­cu­rately, mov­ing briskly at -135F (-93C) wear­ing hardly a stitch of cloth­ing – appeals, then cryother­apy has your name on it.

The ther­a­peu­tic ef­fect of icy wa­ter has been fa­mil­iar for decades to natur­opaths, spa ther­a­pists and heal­ers. After steam­ing your­self nicely in a sauna, banya or ham­mam, it is cus­tom­ary to fling your­self into an icy pool, take a cold shower or, de­pend­ing on the coun­try you’re in, roll around in the snow. “Kneip­ping”, mean­while, in­volves im­mers­ing your­self al­ter­nately in hot and cold wa­ter – a ther­apy de­vised in the mid-19th cen­tury by Fr Se­bastien Kneipp to cure his tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. It is now used in spas through­out Europe.

Pro­fes­sional ath­letes clearly rate cryother­apy, hav­ing used it for years to heal dam­aged mus­cles and even bro­ken bones. For­mer cham­pion jockey AJ McCoy is said to have had daily treat­ments for six months while re­cov­er­ing from a bro­ken back; Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Sir “Mo” Farah are fans; and Andy Mur­ray is also known to bathe in ice after a match. Ac­tresses Jennifer Anis­ton and Jes­sica Alba are also afi­ciona­dos.

In the home, too, a prim­i­tive form of cryother­apy ex­ists: who hasn’t ever slapped a bag of frozen peas on a sprain or in­jury to re­duce the swelling. At the other ex­treme is the very pro­fes­sional ver­sion avail­able at Har­rods’s new Well­ness Clinic, which costs £95 for three min­utes. But is cryother­apy worth the money?

Frankly, it can be daunt­ing. The cryother­apy “cham­ber” is ei­ther faced in wood like some sweet lit­tle chalet (with its malev­o­lent in­te­rior hid­den) or laid bare for ev­ery­one to see for what it re­ally is: a freezer. It’s quite nor­mal to feel small, in­signif­i­cant and se­ri­ously wor­ried as you dis­robe in front of it. How­ever, you will not be to­tally naked, but kindly sup­plied with a pair of shorts, a crop top, socks and gloves as well as a rather fetch­ing pair of clogs or slip­pers. You will also be given a head­band to keep your ears warm – and a sur­gi­cal mask. Once at­tired, you have your blood pres­sure taken and are in­vited to choose your mu­sic (tip: make it lively). And then the jour­ney be­gins.

There are two ba­sic cryother­apy op­tions. One in­volves two cab­i­nets – a smaller, slightly “warmer” one (at around -40F to -58F (-40 to -50C) for the first minute, in or­der to get used to the cold; then a sec­ond, full-on cabi­net at -130F (-90C) or so. The other is more of a shock: you go straight to ground zero.

You are ad­vised to keep mov­ing through­out (hence the mu­sic), with arms swing­ing, torso turn­ing and feet stamp­ing. Re­as­sur­ingly, you will be mon­i­tored through­out – and if you wish to leave at any time, you can.

The first 90 sec­onds go quite quickly as your body adapts to new sen­sa­tions, but the last 50 sec­onds seem in­ter­minable. How­ever, when it’s all over you will feel alive, glow­ing and re-en­er­gised. The tem­per­a­ture shock will have put your body into trauma mode, send­ing oxy­gen cours­ing through your veins, speed­ing up your meta­bolic rate,

Cold feet: cryother­apy can be daunt­ing

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