As a massage therapist, overworked hands and forearms unfortunately come with the job description. Add to the fact that I’m on my feet all day every day giving massages, my muscles are unrelentingly sore and tired.
Worried that this overuse of my hands will one day lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, I decided to try cryotherapy to give my aching muscles a break.
Cryotherapy–which uses extreme cold to treat the various muscles ailments– is all the rage with professional athletes looking to heal quickly after intense performances. So when I started to feel the inflammation in my forearms on a daily basis, I knew that it was time to take the plunge with this specialized pain relief treatment.
I recently visited a local cryotherapy business to give all the various options–full body, localized areas and cryofacial– a try. Here’s what happened.
(Spoiler alert: Cryotherapy hurts. But in the best way possible)
What is Cryotherapy?
As I mentioned above, cryotherapy utilizes extremely cold blasts of liquid nitrogen to help relieve muscle and joint pain (among many other health and wellness benefits such as migraine relief). And when I say cold, I mean cold. -250℉ cold. No temperature that cold exists on this planet.
Think of cryotherapy like the coldest, most intense ice bath you’ll ever take…without having to actually sit in icy water. In fact, just 3 minutes of full body cryotherapy can deliver the same results of a 45-minute ice bath!
The idea of cryotherapy has always intrigued me. In massage school, I learned how heat and cold can contribute to the healing of the tissues of the body. But most of my clients prefer only the use of relaxing heat, so I rarely get to use the cold stones that I have available. Cryotherapy gave me the chance to see cold treatments in action!
Starting My Cryotherapy Sessions
When I first visited my local cryotherapy business, I was a little put off by the expense and the fact that they are membership-based. While you can book a session without being a member, the cost is much more prohibitive. So I reluctantly agreed to a membership, knowing that I should commit to multiple sessions to expect results. While I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the membership model, I do agree with the notion that multiple sessions will deliver the best, most noticeable results.
I decided to try the different variations of cryotherapy available: full body, localized treatments and a cryofacial.
Full Body Cryotherapy
Be forewarned: full body cryotherapy is not for the faint of heart.
You stand in a special chamber naked (except for underwear and special gloves and shoes) with only your head and neck sticking out. Then, your entire body is blasted with ice cold air.
It was brutal.
Thankfully, the treatment lasts only 3 minutes, which is the only reason it’s a tolerable experience. While I was surprised that I could even move when it was over, within a couple of minutes I suddenly felt like a million bucks. I was energetic, pain-free and happy. It was as if my entire body had been revived. Fortunately, that feeling lasted for the next 8 hours. Unfortunately, it made it difficult to get to sleep that night!
Word to the wise: if you’re going to try cryotherapy, book your session in the morning so it doesn’t affect your sleep, which is what I made sure to do for my next session. Plus, the more sessions you do, the easier it is for your body to withstand the cold!
Cryotherapy for a Local Area
Next, I tried a local treatment only on my forearms, wrists and thumbs. This one doesn’t use the chamber; rather, a staff member uses a special, hand-held machine to target specific areas. They also constantly monitor your skin temperature to make sure it doesn’t get below 50 degrees.
Because I found this local treatment to be more effective in relieving the discomfort in my arms, I promised myself that I would go everyday for two weeks straight, and I’m so glad I did.
The first time I had the local treatment on my arms, the relief lasted a few hours. I noticed a big difference after the fourth treatment, when the relief extended to almost 24 hours. After the eight treatment, the relief lasted several days.
The last session I tried was the cryofacial. According to the staff member, cryofacials have many benefits, including relief from headaches and migraines, increased collagen production and sinus pressure relief. What’s not to love about that?
They used the same machine from the local treatments, but focused it specifically on my head, face and neck. I loved it! It was definitely my favorite of all the cryotherapy sessions. Strangely, it was relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time, and I definitely felt my skin tighten up after just one session.
Things to Remember About Cryotherapy
If you’re seeking the many benefits of cryotherapy, here are a few things to keep in mind before you attend your session:
The cold affects people differently. While some people sleep a lot better after a session, it energized me so much I now only get sessions in the morning. If the full body session is simply too much for your body to handle, don’t feel bad! It’s an intense treatment. Give the localized treatment a try instead.
Don’t expect immediate results. If you are trying cryotherapy for a specific complaint, know that you must not expect quick results. It will most likely take multiple sessions before you feel lasting relief from the inflammation that has built up over time.
Ask about other services. Most cryotherapy businesses offer other services you might never have heard of before, such as decompression machines and sound wave therapy for injury repair. You might just find a favorite new treatment that you had no idea existed.
Consider consulting your doctor before your session. There are reports out there of people getting headaches or migraines after a session, possibly due to the liquid nitrogen. Check with your doctor to get his or her thoughts on this kind of treatment for your pain relief.
Is Cryotherapy for You?
Cryotherapy was an interesting experience for me, to say the least. While the full body session was effective at relieving my pain and giving me all-over rejuvenation, it’s not something I plan on doing all the time. I much preferred the localized treatment to find relief for my achy hands and forearms. The cryofacial was also a welcome jolt to my beauty routine.
If you’re looking for a way to find relief, whether it’s from arthritis, migraines, an injury or simple day-to-day soreness, cryotherapy might be an effective (if not intense!) treatment for you.