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Frozen Follies: A Comedic Cryotherapy Tale

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I am new to the world of cryotherapy. After reading about and researching the many potential benefits, I decided to take the plunge myself. 

Yeah, great pun if you have access to one of those plunge pools. I, on the other hand, live near a place that employs a chamber. For those who are not in the know (and honestly that was me until very recently), a cryotherapy chamber is a cylindrical or cuboid-shaped enclosure that uses extremely cold temperatures to provide therapeutic benefits to the body. 

liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air is circulated to bring the temperature down to as low as -200 degrees Fahrenheit”

Inside the tiny little room, liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air is circulated to bring the temperature down to as low as -200 degrees Fahrenheit. The participant (glutton for punishment) stands inside the chamber for a brief period of time. Brief is relative, because even though it’s usually no more than three minutes, it is no joke. At least not for me.

Cryotherapy’s Health Promises:

The health promises that sucked me into this chilling experience really hit home for me in particular. Cryotherapy has been promoted for a variety of health benefits. Here are some of the top purported benefits that spoke to me directly:

  1. Reduce inflammation: Cryotherapy has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial for conditions such as arthritis, muscle soreness, and injury recovery.
  2. Relieve pain: Cryotherapy can help to alleviate pain by numbing the affected area and reducing swelling. This can be especially helpful for conditions such as chronic pain, migraines, and sports injuries.
  3. Boost metabolism: Exposure to cold temperatures has been shown to increase metabolism and help the body burn more calories, which can be beneficial for weight loss and weight management.
  4. Improve circulation: Cryotherapy can help to improve blood flow and circulation, which can be beneficial for overall health and healing.
  5. Enhance athletic performance: Some athletes use cryotherapy as a way to improve their performance and speed up recovery time after workouts or competitions.
  6. Boost immune function: Exposure to cold temperatures has been shown to stimulate the immune system, potentially improving overall immune function and helping to fight off illness.

Now, as a woman in midlife & beyond, Number One on that list hit home for me — inflammation is a midlife woman’s mortal enemy. The other stated benefits aren’t shabby, either. So I had to experience this ambulatory icicle transformation for myself.

How To Prepare For Cryotherapy:

I wish there were little cover-ups for some of my other assets that stick out away from my core body.”

When I enter the cryo chamber, I cover up my extremities (ears, mouth, nose, hands, and feet). Honestly, I wish there were little cover-ups for some of my other assets that stick out away from my core body. Nipples don’t like being frozen, fyi. Oh, yes I do wear a robe which I let fall away from my body once I am alone in the chamber. Getting naked in such an unceremonious way makes me question some of my life choices — like, why did I eat that huge bowl of Hagan Daz ice cream last night? Luckily for me, the cold quickly numbs my senses, and I forget all about my nakedness. Seriously, once I enter that teeny, tiny room with basically zero visibility for all the fog, my one and only focus is on not turning into a human popsicle. 

The chamber is equipped with a viewing window, which can be put in privacy mode. When asked if I want the frosted glass mode, I turn it around on them and ask them how badly they want to witness a naked 58-year-old-woman jumping up and down in order to keep the frozen panic at bay. Needless to say, the privacy glass stays up for my three minutes.

Claustrophobia Is Real:

It doesn’t help me either, that I’ve always been a bit claustrophobic. As it is, my daily life is limited and challenged. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to pass on invites to go spelunking. And heaven help you if you find yourself trapped in an elevator with me. So it’s not farfetched to express the new depths of claustrophobic anxiety reached when I decided to try out the cryo chamber.

“I spend the first couple of minutes frantically scanning the ceiling for the digital timer to tell me when I can escape.”

The first time I stepped into the cryo chamber, I was overwhelmed by the icy cold air surrounding me. As the temperature drops, my breath becomes visible, forming clouds of fog and snowflakes that dance around me like a winter wonderland. The chamber’s interior is well-lit and just spacious enough to keep me from losing my claustrophobic mind. That said, the view inside is obscured by the dense fog and snow. I spend the first couple of minutes frantically scanning the ceiling for the digital timer to tell me when I can escape.

Yes, I can barely make out the silhouette of my body as I nervously sway and jump from left to right foot inside the chamber. But, trust me when I say I blindly reach out a few times to make contact with the door handle — trying to reassure my reptilian brain, who is sure she’s going to freeze to death, that I can save myself if needed.  While the experience is a bit intimidating, the aliveness my body feels in the span of those three minutes is timeless.

Keeping Sane For Three Minutes:

Trapped in the cryo chamber, shivering and alone, I do the only thing I can think of to keep me sane — I sing at the top of my lungs. Singing along to my cryo theme song, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen, helps distract me. Sure, my teeth chatter and my voice quivers, but I don’t care who hears me. As I belt out an off-key rendition of my theme song, I can almost feel the icy walls of the chamber melting away (or maybe that was just the heat of embarrassment spreading through my cheeks). But hey, at least I was keeping my vocal cords limber while freezing my butt off. Who knows, maybe I’ll even audition for American Idol?

Author’s Note: Let me remind everyone these are purported benefits. Not enough has been studied or learned to prove any of it. And I must also remind everyone that cryotherapy may not be appropriate or safe for everyone. Cryotherapy may worsen certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or Raynaud’s syndrome. So it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional before beginning any new therapy.  

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