Here’s What to Know About the (Cold AF) Wellness Trend That Is Cryotherapy

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As far as wellness trends go, it’s safe to say that immersing our bare bodies into sub-zero temperatures is one we’d be most hesitant to get behind. But with it’s rise in popularity, cryotherapy – and it’s myriad health benefits – is carving out quite the comfortable (if immensely chilly) space for itself on the health stage. We asked expert, Afag Shukurova, a few questions about the all-the-rage-as-of-late trend, and the founder of San Francisco’s CryoSF gave us a little cryo primer. Take a look.

What is cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses cold temperatures to relieve muscle pain, inflammation, and soreness. Cryotherapy dates back to 2500 BCE when Egyptians used the cold to treat injuries. Whole-body cryotherapy as we know it today was invented in 1978 by Dr. Yamauchi of Japan to treat people dealing with chronic pain from autoimmune diseases.

How does it work?

Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to bring the temperature down to -220F(-140C). This liquid nitrogen creates a vortex in the chamber, enveloping every inch of a person’s body. Cryotherapy is all about efficiency, where a procedure lasts for three minutes compared to the twenty to thirty minutes involved with an ice bath.

What are some of the benefits of cryotherapy?

After doing cryotherapy, you’ll feel an immediate energy rush. Endorphins and adrenaline will be flowing through your body, making you more alert and cheerful. Any previous inflammation, soreness, and pain will decrease. People have also reported longer and deeper sleep and you burn calories doing it, too.

Is cryotherapy safe for everyone? Are there people who definitely shouldn’t do it?

You should not use cryotherapy if you’re pregnant or if you have have any of the following conditions: diabetes, severe hypertension (BP> 180/100), acute or recent myocardial infarction, unstable angina pectoris, arrhythmia, symptomatic cardiovascular disease, cardiac pacemaker, peripheral arterial occlusive disease, venous thrombosis, acute or recent cerebrovascular accident, uncontrolled seizures, Raynaud’s Syndrome, fever, tumor disease, symptomatic lung disorders, bleeding disorders, severe anemia, infection, claustrophobia, cold allergy, acute kidney, and urinary tract diseases.

How can cryotherapy improve athletic performance, if at all?

Cryotherapy is shown to affect the sympathetic nervous system. The body speeds up, becoming more alert and when used as a pre-workout, it has been shown to increase strength in athletes. It helps with inflammation and soreness after a workout, allowing you to return to your routine much sooner and stronger.

Who would you say are the best candidates for cryotherapy?

People who experience chronic pain are great candidates for cryotherapy. Athletes, whether professional or recreational, will experience reduced soreness and inflammation, allowing them to workout harder and much more frequently.

What are some things to know before your first cryotherapy session?

Cryotherapy isn’t as scary as it sounds. Although temperatures are cold, they aren’t unbearable. Just make sure your skin is completely dry and you haven’t applied any lotion or moisturizer beforehand. The feeling you receive after undergoing a session is entirely worth the three minutes.