Healthy Living

What to Expect While Undergoing Cryotherapy

What to Expect While Undergoing Cryotherapy

Key Takeaways

  • The liquid nitrogen being pumped into the cryotherapy chamber is usually below -100oC.
  • Before getting into the actual cryotherapy chamber, there is another chamber, an acclimatization chamber, which is supposed to get your body ready. 
  • The maximum recommended time to stay in the cryotherapy chamber is 3 minutes, but anywhere between 1.5 to 3 minutes is effective.

Before booking that appointment with your local gym or health center, there are a few things you should know first. It is important to be ready for the therapy session, so you can decide if it is the best choice for you, or if you will end up regretting the experience.

How cold does it feel?

The liquid nitrogen being pumped into the cryotherapy chamber is usually below -100oC, which is very cold. Your skin temperature will also be cooled to this temperature, but your core temperature will remain consistent if the time limit is observed. The skin acts as a protective layer to the inner body organs, preventing loss of heat from vital organs. Therefore, the core body temperature will remain at a healthy temperature during the cryotherapy treatment.

In short, you probably will not feel as cold as you think, despite the alarming -100oC temperature used during treatment. Those who have undergone the procedure have explained the feeling as being the opposite of a dry heat, meaning that it will indeed feel cold but not to the extent that you will be shivering and chattering your teeth. While you will feel cold, it will not be nearly as miserable as it may sound.

Afterward, you will feel energetic and elated, because the procedure stimulates your body to release endorphins. This increased energy is perhaps why athletes like to have a cryotherapy session before going to the field.

What will I wear?

Your extremities must be covered, which means 2 or 3 pairs of gloves and socks will be worn during the treatment session. Of course, you shall have to wear some kind of underwear, as well. It is advisable that you wear loose cotton underwear during the procedure; ideally, this means shorts for men and an additional crop top for women. These are all you will need for a partial body cryotherapy. If a whole body cryotherapy session is being performed, then you will have to cover your ears with a cotton headband. You will also need to wear a mask to cover your mouth.

More important, you must ensure all your clothing is completely dry, because any moisture can cause frostbite. Justin Gatlin learned this lesson the hard way when he showed up at the 2011 World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea. He had undergone a cryotherapy session before the games, but the socks he wore were sweaty from a previous workout, and he got frostbite on his feet. While frostbite is clearly a strong risk with cryotherapy, it can be avoided by wearing clean, dry clothing and making sure your skin is dry before you enter the cryotherapy chamber.

You will not need a shower afterwards

Temperatures in a cryotherapy chamber are kept low, so the liquid nitrogen will remain in its original taste. Despite the label ‘liquid’ nitrogen, the process does not make you wet, and it is mostly in gaseous form. Besides, any molecules of nitrogen that condense on your skin will quickly evaporate when you exit the chamber, because nitrogen has a very low boiling point. In short, you won’t need a shower because you won’t be wet after the treatment.

The acclimatization chamber first

Before getting into the actual cryotherapy chamber, there is another chamber you go through that is supposed to get your body ready. This acclimatization chamber has a low temperature, but the temperature is not as low as that in the cryo sauna. This acclimatization chamber is used to prevent negative effects associated with going straight from room temperature to the temperature used in the cryotherapy chamber. For example, the body may go into shock if it immediately exposed to the cryotherapy temperature after being normalized to the regular room temperature.

How long does it take?

The maximum recommended time to stay in the cryotherapy chamber is 3 minutes, but anywhere between 1.5 to 3 minutes is effective. Besides, the door to the chamber is never locked, so you can just walk out if you feel uncomfortable at any time. 

Is cryotherapy safe?

Cryotherapy cannot truly be deemed unsafe or safe for all people. It is not an approved method of treatment for any condition, so there are risks involved. Additionally, cryotherapy is a relatively new form of treatment, so knowledge about long-term effects is limited. However, it appears to be safe for many people. There are a few people that should consider avoiding cryotherapy as a treatment method.

People with asthma and allergies may be triggered by the very cold temperature. It is also recommended that people with high blood pressure do not participate in cryotherapy sessions, as it may trigger more severe complications. Blood flow is also reduced during cryotherapy, so it may be necessary to take certain precautions to avoid damage. Precautions include using the acclimatization chamber, as well as moving throughout the session to keep blood flowing correctly. As mentioned earlier, frostbite is always a concern with cryotherapy treatments due to the extremely cold temperatures. Frostbite may be avoided by following the recommended preparation, such as ensuring all clothing is dry before entering the chamber. 

Final Thoughts

Cryotherapy is an alternative treatment that should not endeavored without proper research. Cryotherapy may have risks, particularly for people with certain conditions. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor and/or an experienced professional before trying cryotherapy. It is also unclear as to whether or not cryotherapy will be effective for certain conditions, so this is a reason to truly consider whether or not cryotherapy is worth any of the possible risks and side effects. 

That being said, there is a fair number of people that believe cryotherapy can be beneficial, and the risks can be minimized if you deem this therapy is right for you. Just be sure to follow all precautions, and find a professional who is experienced with proper cryotherapy regulations and precautions to avoid any unfortunate outcomes after cryotherapy sessions. Cryotherapy may be the right treatment for your condition.