CRYOTHERAPHY – WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
by Sarah Scaddan
There is a new craze sweeping Geneva, one that is seriously chilly but promises great health benefits. Full body cryotherapy (cold therapy) is the process of exposing the body to below freezing temperatures for three minutes, in a chamber filled with liquid nitrogen. It has been a favourite of athletes for many years to speed up muscle tissue repair and trigger muscle regeneration. Now there are cryotherapy centers popping up everywhere claiming to help everything from weight loss to fibromyalgia.
Applying ice or immersing in ice baths has been used for centuries to decrease pain and muscle spasms. In the 1970’s in Japan, it became a popular treatment to help the pain of rheumatism and it then caught the world’s attention.
HOW DOES CRYOTHERAPY WORK?
There are theories about how cryotherapy works. It is believed that the brain detects a state of hypothermia and goes in fight or flight mode, just as if you were standing at the top of Mont Blanc in your birthday suit. The body rushes all of its blood to the vital organs until you step out of the chamber and the body immediately relaxes. Freshly oxygenated blood is now pumped all over the body, nourishing the skin, muscles, bones and joints. The hormone norepinephrine, a strong anti-inflammatory, and the happy hormone serotonin are believed to be released.
Here are some of the claims of the potential benefits of fully body cryotherapy: –
- Reduced inflammation
- Help with pain reduction and relieving muscle soreness
- Improved recovery from exercise injuries, impact or trauma
- Mood enhancement
- Deceased sleep disorders
- Increases in energy
- Help with weight loss and fat-burning (burns 500-800 calories per session)
- Reductions in symptoms of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, Crohn’s disease
- Decreased asthma symptoms
- Kills viruses
So of course, I had to try it. I bought a course of 5 sessions at Swiss Cryotherapy in Geneva and went once a week. I am now TOTALLY addicted.
On arrival you strip down to your underwear (in private) and don thermal socks, gloves and thick slippers. You then step into a chamber that surrounds your body with your head clearly out of the top. It is not remotely claustrophobic which was one of my big fears. The delightful assistant chats to you throughout (bonus free French lesson) and it is over before you know it. There is no denying that it is really really cold, but it is only three minutes of discomfort and it flies by.
Yes you do feel pretty awesome afterwards, happy and ready to face the rest of the day. I also noticed that my skin instantaneously was much smoother and softer. I suffer from back pain and that subsided considerably. I slept fantastically. But the most noticeable and delightful affect was weight loss. Admittedly I was eating a healthy diet at the same time, but the weight fell off and stayed off. I have been struggling with a slow metabolism for some time and I really believe this helped. If it is in my head, really who cares, as long as I am feeling good? I now go once a week now and if you try to stop me, you will most definitely fail.
CHF40 per session.
If you would like to try for yourself, here are some of the Geneva venues: