Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Tracey Rem­pel

Should you hit the deep freeze to re­cover bet­ter?

I’m stand­ing in a cryother­apy cham­ber and ex­pos­ing my body to tem­per­a­tures well be­low -140 C for three min­utes. It’s chilly, but bear­able, much like stand­ing naked in front of a freezer. I now have some­thing in com­mon with World­tour cy­clists, and nhl and nba play­ers. There has been an ever-grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity with the use of cryother­apy for ath­letic re­cov­ery and, be­ing an avid cy­clist, my cu­rios­ity got the bet­ter of me. So here I stand with my head stick­ing out of this padded cham­ber while liq­uid ni­tro­gen vapours en­ve­lope my en­tire body in a deep freeze. I’m ac­tu­ally quite at ease with my mit­tens and booties on. With no hu­mid­ity ac­com­pa­ny­ing this in­tro­duc­tion to ex­treme tem­per­a­tures, it’s a some­what com­fort­ably cool experience. Pre­vi­ously, this cold ther­apy had only been ac­ces­si­ble to top ath­letes and sports teams will­ing to in­vest in the $60,000 units. With spas and wellness clin­ics now adding these cham­bers to their lines of health and beauty treat­ments, recre­ational ath­letes can now pay around $60 a ses­sion, mak­ing cryother­apy a grow­ing trend.

“I don’t think it’s be­com­ing more pop­u­lar now. I think it’s been pop­u­lar for decades al­ready. We see more endorsements from dif­fer­ent celebri­ties and peo­ple who have been us­ing it that have in­flu­ence,” says Ro­man Gersh, owner of Cryother­apy Toronto.

Cryother­apy is said to trig­ger the fight-or-flight re­sponse in your sys­tem. Dur­ing this time, blood rushes to the core and be­comes oxy­gen-en­riched, which re­stores en­ergy and stim­u­lates quicker re­cov­ery. Be­cause of the i ncrease in blood flow, more oxy­gen re­stores en­ergy to mus­cles, re­duces in­flam­ma­tion, cre­at­ing a more ef­fi­cient re­cov­ery.

“We’re try­ing to fool the brain into think­ing you’re about to freeze so that it starts to re­lease a lot of ben­e­fi­cial mech­a­nisms into your blood­stream,” Gersh says.

Not only is it said to help with sports per­for­mance, but some have said it has weight-loss and beauty ben­e­fits. Celebri­ties such as Tony Robbins, Lindsay Lo­han, Ali­cia Keys and Jennifer Anis­ton have all added cryother­apy to their health reg­i­mens.

Too bad, how­ever, there is no sci­ence to back up any of these claims. Even though cryother­apy has been around since the late 1970s, no data sub­stan­ti­ates the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits, whether it be sports per­for­mance, skin or di­etary ben­e­fits. More study is also needed to gauge the long-term ef­fects.

There has been one death due to cryother­apy, but it was a spa worker who trapped her­self in­side a unit af­ter clos­ing and froze to death. Most units have mag­netic doors that eas­ily push open, pre­vent­ing this type of ac­ci­dent from hap­pen­ing. Tech­ni­cians have been ad­vised to never use these cham­bers with­out su­per­vi­sion. Other ad­verse ef­fects could be in­ert gas as­phyx­i­a­tion from breath­ing in the liq­uid ni­tro­gen vapours, as well as frost­bite.

De­spite the risks, sports teams, celebri­ties and recre­ational ath­letes are in­creas­ingly sign­ing up for their weekly fix.

Af­ter ex­it­ing the cham­ber, I do feel a cer­tain vigour and am ex­cited to get mov­ing and trig­ger heat back into the body. Whether or not I will experience height­ened ath­letic re­cov­ery, time will only tell. One ses­sion is not enough to form a proper con­clu­sion, and I’m told five to 10 ses­sions are rec­om­mended to truly feel the ben­e­fits.

With only weak ev­i­dence and the­o­ret­i­cal ben­e­fits, the ques­tion re­mains: is cryother­apy a fad or does the sci­ence need to catch up with this trend?

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