Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary Impact Cryotherapy experience for purposes of review. All opinions are my own.
Remember those crazy rumors that Walt Disney’s body is frozen somewhere, just waiting for technology to revive him? This. This is what I thought of when I heard “cryotherapy”.
I visited Impact Cryotherapy – the Studio in Alpharetta, GA on a night when they were having an Open House event, offering free services for people curious to check it out!
I’ve only been off crutches for about a month or so. My leg is completely healed, but my knee is still a bit stiff and I don’t have full flexibility back. I was curious to hear about how cryotherapy services could help me.
NormaTec Recovery System
I found the staff to be friendly and knowledgeable, explaining how various services are helpful and the dynamics behind how they work. I first tried the NormaTec Recovery System. Basically, these are sleeves that you put on and zip into. A tube for air is attached and the compression therapy begins. As a survivor of shin splints brought on by super tight calf muscles, I’m very familiar with how compression helps keep muscles looser by encouraging blood flow.
The sleeves were inflated but the pressure is made to move up and down your legs in a progression; it’s not just a tight squeeze the whole time. It has more of a massage feel. The technician can set the level; I experienced level three out of ten. It didn’t hurt in any way but it was tight enough that I had a hard time imagining ramping up much more. The NormaTec system also includes a “boost” option allowing the technician to focus on a specific part of your body. The experience is generally recommended for 20 minutes. I kicked back in the recliner and watched football on a flat screen while my knee was getting the increased blood flow my orthopedist encouraged. Not a bad way to spend twenty minutes.
Full Body Cryotherapy – Prep
Next up was full body cryotherapy. The studio provides local cryotherapy, but I was intrigued by the process of full body. There’s a little preparation. To make the most of the experience, you will essentially be going in naked. You can keep undergarments on, but nothing with underwire should be worn in there, ladies. Maybe wear a sports bra.
You are ushered into a small dressing area with robes, socks, gloves and booties available.
When you go back out to the cryosauna, the technician will place padded cushions in the bottom that adjust to your height. Your head obviously needs to stick out of the cryosauna but not much more than that. Once we got the right combination, I entered, had the door closed behind me and handed off my robe.
Because I like to know what’s going on (and how much time passes while I’m in there) a handy display is provided for you to keep an eye on. One of the safety features of the cryosauna is that the sauna will shut off if a technician does not press certain buttons when prompted. A technician is in the room during your entire experience.
Full Body Cryotherapy – The Experience
I know this is a ragingly obvious statement, but mercy that was cold. SO cold. The cryosaunas fill with nitrogen vapor and depending on the level selected, the temperature drops from -90 celsius to -120 celsisus. It’s generally recommended to spend three minutes in the cryosauna but since this was my first time, the timer was only set for two minutes.
The above picture is the cryosauna after I was done. I felt like Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. (I know; my teenager was quick to remind me that Han was frozen in carbonite. Still. And that logo on the chamber looks a bit too much like the First Order logo, no?) While I was in there, my technician encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to be warmer – cover my elbows, bounce around, march in place. You don’t have to stay completely still; this isn’t a spray tan. So cold, y’all.
Why? Why Would You Do This?
First off, it’s a less traumatic and much more efficient ice bath. I’ve been running for seven years and have not yet been able to bring myself to take an ice bath because it sounds horrifying. The cryotherapy level of cold is believed to stimulate muscles and boost recovery. After only two minutes, my clothes still had retained my body heat and I warmed right back up again quickly when I got dressed.
I was told that many people use cryotherapy not only for recovery but for pain management. People who are not athletes but have general aches and pains due to recurring medical conditions regularly use cryotherapy. Who shouldn’t use it? Pregnant women and anyone who has heart or blood clotting issues. You can see a more detailed list in the FAQ section on their website.
How Did I Feel?
I know for a fact that the science behind the NormaTec Recovery Systems is recommended. Anything that promotes blood flow to stiff and sore muscles speeds healing; I’ve experienced that in my recovery from my injury.
After the cryotherapy, my legs felt noticeably more energetic. It’s hard to describe the feeling but they were definitely more “alive” feeling than they had been in a long time. It’s hard to make any definitive judgments after only one two minute session. Once I’m cleared to run again (early January) I’d like to try it again and see what else I notice.
If the full-body cryotherapy makes you nervous, they do offer local cryotherapy sessions.
If you would like to know more, check out Impact Cryotherapy – the studio online