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Stepping into a -220 ° F chamber may not be your ideal way to start the morning. It certainly isn’t mine, but for others, this is part of their daily routine. Cryotherapy was originally started by the Japanese to help treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. It then carried over to the United States where it gained popularity in treating recovery for professional athletes, and is now open to the everyday person. With many professional teams such as the Chicago Cubs and Dallas Mavericks who purchased their own cryotherapy machines, the original ice bath seems to be becoming an outdated technique. So what is cryotherapy? It is a two to three-minute process that involves freezing liquid nitrogen into gaseous form with temperatures that can go as low as -300 °F that cool the body down.Cryotherapy is mainly used for recovery and pain; however Hollywood seems to be changing that. Cryotherapy is now getting the notion for people to experience less stress, weight loss and have better-looking skin. To test out these myths and try it out for myself, I visited Dr. Ryan Tuchscherer at 5280 Cryo and Recovery Clinic.

Myths Debunked

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First things first you should know about 5280 Cryo and Recover Clinic is that they started using cryotherapy chambers in 2012 and were one of the first and only cryotherapy businesses to open in Colorado. The Denver Broncos are full-time customers, and Dr. Tuchscherer makes sure to help figure out what is causing the aches and pains in your body, rather than taking your money and having you go straight into the chamber. If you are already in pain and think that cryotherapy will cure everything, Dr. Tuchscherer says that is definitely not what you should be expecting.

“A big point that I think does need to be made from a medical standpoint is that we are not treating that condition, but we are helping you reduce inflammation which ultimately reduces the pain and discomfort that you are in, said Dr. Tuchscherer. So, basically to go in and expect to lose weight, have better skin, and feel less stressed is not what Hollywood has set it up to be. ”They will get hammered with the FDA at some point on that side because it is false advertising. For some people, it’s a great side effect. If that happens for you, fantastic!”

However, Hollywood may be onto something. Even though it is a side effect for some people, there is a reasoning behind it. “When you think about it from a cellulite standpoint. The whole thing is with the tissue is that there are area’s that contract and relax, so basically what happens is when you tighten up that area, everything’s a little lax (relaxed) and you get dimples in through there and that’s the cellulite. So when you go through cyro it starts to tighten that up it and takes away that component,” said Dr. Tuchscherer. When it comes to reducing stress, Dr. Tuchscherer explained the cryotherapy is supposed to help decrease cortisol levels which is a stress hormone. With the boosting your metabolism myth, it’s from your body having to work to heat itself again, but as Dr. Tuchscherer  explained, “anything can help start your metabolism, drinking a cold glass of water from the start of your day is just as effective.”

Is it Better Than an Ice Bath?

So why pay $65 for a session, when an ice bath is free? Well, an ice bath might take four to six weeks to see results, but when compared to doing cryotherapy you are looking at one to four weeks.

“The problem with an ice bath is that the body is still fighting that gradient, so it is still trying to push blood down to the extremities. With the cyro, we get so cold so quickly that the body within the first 10-15 seconds says ‘White flag, I give up’ and pulls everything back in. So there’s not that gradient of pushing blood back down there. So you actually get a full constriction all the way from your foot, your hand, to all the way back up. Where [the heart] spins it, enriches it and re-originates it, and puts it back in,” said Dr. Tuchscherer.

It makes sense when there is more of a technical side to it, rather than just comparing which one has a faster time, plus when it comes to people over 60 who have arthritis and inflammation/pain, an ice bath really isn’t the best option for them.

The Process

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After discussing with Dr. Tuchscherer, it was time to be taken back to the chamber. I had to sign a consent form and then was directed to a changing room where I was instructed to take everything off and put a robe and slippers (with socks) on. After putting those on, I then went into a separate room where the chamber was. When I walked into the chamber, it was super padded on the inside which I was not expecting and I also had to be elevated up to where my head and hands were peeking out of the top. I then took off my robe (so yes, I am fully naked in there except with slippers on) and was then handed gloves for my hands. I set my fingertips on top over the edge, and then he turned the machine on. The nitrogen starts as liquid, but is frozen and turned into gas (so there is no actual liquid touching you, just cold nitrogen gas). It feels like a blast of cold air at first, and that you are in a smoke machine since the vapor escapes through the top. It felt kind of good at the beginning, and I thought “Oh, I can definitely handle this.” Then 30 seconds hits, and I thought we were already at -200°F, nope, only at -100°F. Every 30 seconds you shift about 45 degrees. It was here at only 45 seconds, I could feel my body become numb and at about one minute, I could feel my teeth starting to chatter. It felt like such a struggle to talk since my teeth were chattering so much. “20 seconds left,” he said, and all I could think is “Thank God!”  I was in the chamber for two minutes and 20 seconds and made it down to -220 °F right before he turned it off. He hands me back my robe (I’m shaking when I grab it), lowered me down, and I go back into the changing room to change back to my regular clothes.

 My teeth were still chattering when I was changing, and my thighs felt like they were still icicles. Dr. Tuchscherer  tells me that tonight will be the best sleep of my life since the central nervous system becomes “calmed down.” So, at least I had something to look forward too. My thighs still felt frozen 30 minutes after, but I felt energized and ready to go to work.

The Results

The truth of the matter is even though I am the biggest cheapskate, I would 100 percent pay for a session rather than do an ice bath. Ice baths will always be the last choice for me since I find them painful. But with the Cryotherapy since it is shorter and you get a better effect from it, why not pay for it if it will help you better in the long run? For full disclosure, I was not in any pain or soreness when I entered the chamber, so I would say the Cryotherapy did not help me in that aspect. However, Dr. Tuchscherer  did give me a pre-warning for that and said, “a person with a 2/10 pain is going to need a couple of sessions to really feel the effect compared to someone who has an 8/10 pain.” What I was mostly looking forward to was when Dr. Ryan said he had the best night of sleep his first time doing it, and I have to agree with him there, I did sleep pretty damn well that night.

5280 Cryo and Recover offers: $65 for 1 treatment, $100 Jumpstart Special(2 treatments),$275- 5 treatments, $500- 10 treatments, $900- 20 sessions, $249-10 sessions monthly, $325- unlimited monthly. 5280 Cyro and Recover is located in Cherry Creek but is opening a new location in Downtown Denver in about 5 weeks.  

All photos courtesy of 5280 Cryo and Recovery Clinic, unless otherwise noted. 

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