Cryotherapy: we tried it so you don’t have to

As someone who often complains about minor backaches and joint pain, I am constantly encouraged by my friends and family to try new treatment options. Most recently, after hearing enough about the kinks in my back, one of my friends donated to my cause in the form of a coupon for one free session of Cryotherapy. Three minutes in a freezing therapeutic nitrogen tank in the name of wellness? For free?! This was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. As an avid Instagrammer, I have seen nearly all of Hollywood post glamorous photos of themselves standing in these freezing tanks, all crediting the same treatment via tag: cryotherapy. I could not help but wonder, for what benefit? I wish I could tell you that I thoroughly research medical treatments before trying them, especially when mimicking freezing to death is involved, but then I’d be lying.

Comedian Kevin Hart, and many other celebrities, are raving about cryotherapy. Credit: Instagram.

Comedian Kevin Hart, and many other celebrities, are raving about cryotherapy. Credit: Instagram.

I arrived at Cryomed in the Back Bay on a rainy Saturday. My friend and I jotted our names on the list, neglected to read a few liability waivers, signed said liability waivers, and were escorted into a room with a sleek metal tank. The nurse handed us robes, gloves, socks, and clogs and instructed us to remove all clothing and jewelry. After she turned on the machine to get it “warmed up”, I elected to go first. I stepped into the chamber, cooled by liquid nitrogen, and tentatively removed my robe. I watched the temperature as it dropped from -32°F to approximately -237°F.  As I watched the temperature swiftly descend, I asked how much time had passed. Ten excruciatingly long seconds. I’m talking waiting-for-your-food-in-the-microwave long.

Meredyth Lamm, skeptically inspecting the cryo tank before jumping in. Credit: author.

Meredyth Lamm, skeptically inspecting the cryo tank before jumping in. Credit: author.

The nurse continued on to inform me that the longer I remain in the tank, the more likely I am to experience all of the benefits. According to Cryomed’s website, patients who suffer from “musculoskeletal injuries, postsurgical recovery, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, skin disorders such psoriasis and dermatitis, skin aging, elasticity loss and cellulite, disrupted sleep, chronic fatigue” are most likely to fully benefit from the Cryomed experience.

After about thirty seconds in the chamber, I started to complain about my freezing, soon-to-be corpse. In addition to my friend, the nurse had apparently heard enough of my complaining. She firmly suggested I jump or spin around, but my legs were too wobbly to move. This was next level cold. It's like taking out your trash, in your underwear, in the middle of a blizzard. I watched the temperature plateau around -237°F and I, again, asked how much remained. She began to tell me that I had less than thirty seconds left, but I immediately felt light headed. I quickly begged to exit, wrapped my freezer-burned limbs in my robe, and lunged out. While shivering in my terry cloth robe, I expressed my concern to the nurse. There was an odd silence in the room, as if no one had ever passed out in this tank before. The nurse told me to stay standing and get my blood flowing while my friend hopped in for her turn.

The Cryomed Boston website touts the health benefits of cryotherapy.

The Cryomed Boston website touts the health benefits of cryotherapy.

We both left the treatment center with goosebumps as souvenirs. In addition to experiencing an overwhelmingly cold sensation for the rest of the afternoon, we both felt noticeably more limber. I went home, poured myself a glass of orange juice (just in case I actually was going to pass out), and commenced my long overdue research.

I didn't find much about fainting during cryotherapy, but I did find out that in order for cryotherapy to work, it tricks your body into thinking that you are freezing to death. Sounds safe. Apparently all of the blood goes to your vital organs in an effort to protect the, you guessed it, vital organs. This supposedly aids in reducing inflammation in the body, however, the U.S. Food Drug administration states on their website that, “Whole Body Cryotherapy has not cleared or approved any of these devices for medical treatment of any specific medical conditions.”

At the end of the day, I would not pay $65.00 for another session. I didn’t feel much more of a benefit than if I was adamant about stretching after exercising. It was definitely a fun Saturday activity but in all seriousness, check with your doctor before trying to become the next Walt Disney.

Meredyth Lamm, trying hard to smile in the freezing cryotherapy tank. Credit: author.

Meredyth Lamm, trying hard to smile in the freezing cryotherapy tank. Credit: author.