Last week I got the chance to experience minus 110 degrees in a cryotherapy chamber as part of trip organised by my class in college. Today I’m just going to write about that experience and my thoughts. If you’re like me you are probably thinking how could I go into -110 degrees and not freeze or die or at least lose a few toes! So read ahead and see how I got on.
Whats a Cryotherapy Chamber?
A cryotherapy chamber is a chamber that can reach temperatures of as low as minus 160 degrees Celsius. Whole body cryotherapy is the use of these extremely low temperatures for sport and health benefits such as
- Decreased recovery time from injuries/ intense exercise
- Reduction in pain and swelling
- treatment of chronic pain
- Arthritis, joint/muscle pain, stress and anxiety etc.
“The chamber works by cooling the entire skin surface of the body in order to develop defensive reflexes and reactions such as stimulation of blood circulation, endocrine system, immune system and the central nervous system.”
To put the healing standards of the cryotherapy chamber to the test I made sure to get some work done in the gym the evening beforehand. I did some lower body hypertrophy, Deadlifts, Bulgarian squats, calf raises and squats then I was asked to play some indoor soccer because they were short on numbers so its safe to say that I expected to be sore the morning of the cryotherapy. Personally I usually get a bit tight the day after a session and then the following day or two is when its the worst. So on the day of the cryo chamber I was just a little bit sore around my hamstrings, Glutes and lower back.
The Cryotherapy Chamber is located in White’s Hotel Wexford city. It is the first cryo chamber in a hotel in Ireland or the UK and one of very few facilities in Ireland. When we got to the Hotel they went through the usual safety instructions, you can’t use it if you suffer from High blood pressure, have a pacemaker etc. They also said that you can’t use it if you have shaved any part of your body other than your face in the last 72hours! This is presumably in-case you have any cuts etc.
We Then went upstairs in groups of 8. Only four people were allowed to enter the chamber at a time while the other four watched. When I first saw the chambers it just looked like 3 windows looking into different freezers. They looked like big meat freezers. The employee then checked our blood pressure was at a normal rate before we were allowed in. We then had to change.
To enter the chambers you had to wear a fluffy headband that covered your ears, a facemask like a dentist would use, two pairs of gloves, shorts, long socks (or else they gave you ankle warmers) and shoes. Women had to wear a top. All this gear was to protect the sensitive body parts from the extreme temperatures, without these garments you could get frost bite or cold burns.
Unfortunately I was in the second group so I had to watch the first group go through it first. They went into the first chamber which was -10 degrees, they then quickly went into the second chamber that was -60 degrees and then into the last chamber of -110 degrees! There were yelps and shouts as the cold air hit them which was funny but a little scary as I knew I was next. While they were only passing through the first two chambers to acclimatise their bodies they had to stay in this one for 3 minutes. When they came out their skin was red and freezing and it was my turn.
I entered the first chamber (-10°), it was pretty cold but just as bad as getting up for school/college on a cold winters morning. Then into the middle chamber (-60°), this was definitely colder and my body started tensing. Neither of these chambers prepared me for the wall of cold air that hit me as I entered the 3rd chamber (-110°).
Instantly It was the coldest I’d ever been, I took a deep breath and my body was very tense. When I exhaled my breath instantly turned to water vapour (steam/ foggy breath) this vapour hit my facemask and travelled straight up my nose which felt like I had just snorted a heap of snow! For the 3 minutes that you are in the chamber you have to slowly walk around the chamber, you’re not supposed to jump or jog etc.
So me and my other 3 classmates starting walking in circles in the chamber. The chamber was just about big enough for this. The chamber had one window and an emergency exit door. The corners of the chamber and the handle on the door had small amounts of snow or sleet on them. Through the window the employee could monitor us and she also had a camera in the chamber. After what seemed like an eternity in the chamber she put up a sign that said “2 minutes gone”. This is where it got its toughest in the chamber. My eyelashes were starting to freeze over and felt really weird. It wasn’t like normal cold weather when your skin gets cold, I could actually feel individual muscles coldness on the inside. I just tried to concentrate on my breathing as my classmates and I eagerly waited for the employee to signal time was up and we could leave.
Finally the 3 minutes were up and we left the same way we came in gradually passing through the different temperatures and out into room temperature. For about 20 seconds I was still very cold my skin was freezing and rock hard like something out of a freezer at home. Quickly though the cold effects wore off and I got warm again. I felt really fresh and wide awake. The shock on the body that the cold temperature caused was gone and my body was kicking back into action. I felt like I could train again.
After a few hours this feeling was gone again and honestly I felt just as tight and sore as I had before the chamber, so does this mean that the chambers a hoax? Not at all. 3 sessions in the chamber with at least 2 hours between sessions is what’s recommended for athletes to see significant results. The employee also said that the 2nd go in the chamber feels much worse! As we got to use the chamber for free we only got one go but athletes can get the use of the hotels gym and 3 sessions in the chamber for about 90 euro.
So the single session didn’t magically heal my muscle soreness but did it help? Yes definitely. The day after the chamber I would have been expecting to feel the full force of soreness from my training 2 days before but it didn’t get any worse. In fact it got a little better. So while the cryotherapy session didn’t heal my muscle soreness it certainly stopped it from getting any worse which I was grateful for!
So to finish up getting to experience a cryotherapy chamber and those extreme temperatures was a terrific experience. The Chamber was extremely impressive. While it didn’t magically cure all the muscle soreness I had, personally I feel that just the single session in the chamber had positive effects on it. This form of recovery may be more for elite athletes/teams (was used by Welsh rugby team) that will do the full 3 sessions a day for a few days in between training sessions.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed hearing about my personal experience in a cryotherapy chamber.
- What is Cryotherapy? (harvestmd.com)