Cryotherapy Might Be the Best Way to Recover from Joint Pain

The other day while eavesdropping on a training session at the gym, I heard a statuesque trainer tell his client he recently started cryotherapy to help with his recovery. Since I was between sets—checking all of my social media pages and taking selfies—I took the time to Google this procedure. My knees had been bugging me recently, and I was desperate for any kind of relief.

The images that filled my screen showed people with their heads sticking out of machines resembling tanning beds except standing up and surrounded by fog. I came across testimonials from pro athletes like LeBron James and rave reviews from people with sculpted bodies who probably have never tasted Taco Bell’s nacho fries.

It turns out that one of the hottest fitness trends is making your body think you’re dying. That's how cold it gets in those chambers. Allegedly it's good for you.

In a nutshell, cryotherapy is a procedure that involves standing upright in a cryochamber with temperatures ranging from -184 F to -256 F. The extreme cold stimulates the skin’s temperate receptors to activate the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. Basically, all the participating systems in your fight or flight response activate like Captain Planet characters. Any pain or inflammation is reduced. Your mood ring turns from a filthy brown to a sunny orange. And all of that happens in less than 3 minutes.

Any longer and, well, you saw Titanic, right?

I needed to see if it was worth the hype, so I paid a visit to a center recommended by a friend—Kryo X—in midtown Manhattan. Apparently one of the Real Housewives went there, and it’s a block from my apartment, so why not.

After being greeted by a friendly technician, hearing about their pro hockey player clients, and getting all of my safety questions answered—it’s very safe unless you’re pregnant, have unmanaged hypertension, deep vein thrombosis, acute or recent myocardial infarction, uncontrolled seizures, fever, Raynaud’s syndrome, cold allergy, acute kidney and urinary tract diseases, open wounds or ulcers, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or are being treated for cancer—I began my first of three treatments.

I stripped down to my boxer briefs, wiped away any moisture on my body to avoid frostbite, and put on the tube socks, mittens, earmuffs, face mask, and Ugg-like boots the center provided. Then I stepped into the cryochamber. It was kind of like walking into a very bright walk-in freezer…initially. For my first go-round, the technician took it easy on me and set the temperature to -215 F. And for three minutes he made small talk with me to take my mind of my body shaking uncontrollably. You know when Andre 3000 chants, “What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold!” He should really update that last line to “Doing cryotherapy!”

Source: Dawson, Lamar. “Cryotherapy Might Be the Best Way to Recover from Joint Pain.” GQ, GQ, 16 June 2018, www.gq.com/story/cryotherapy-is-great-for-joint-pain.