Posted on November 07 2019
In Southern California, fitness gyms are absolutely everywhere, stacked with the latest equipment, knowledgeable gurus, and trendy get fit/get ripped programs. The recovery business is huge! These gyms now have dedicated areas and rooms full of handheld massagers, vibrating foam rolls, pneumatic compression garments, infrared saunas, stretching devices, and cryotherapy saunas.
You've likely tried most of these if you are a committed weekend warrior athlete with some aches and pains. I just happened to get a chance to jump into a cryotherapy sauna recently and wanted to share my experience.
I was invited down to a swanky new fitness spot in Orange County for a free trial. So, seeing that my legs were beat up from a recent run/workout it sounded like the right time to give it a go. Typical per session rates range from $30-$45 depending on promo/specials etc...Each session is only 3 minutes long! Super quick, except it took me about 30 minutes each way to drive there (and no, cryotherapy saunas are not for home use). Once there, I undressed and threw on a robe and a pair of furry slippers, which apparently are all the rage in Newport Beach,Ca. I went with it.
As I clawed my way over to the cryotherapy chamber, I disrobed and began the treatment. The session was a quick 3 minutes and quite bearable. I felt the cooling vapors surrounding my skin and by about the 3 minute mark I was getting chilled and ready to come out. The temperature was set to the below parameters. Typical range from what I've read is -100 to -150 degrees F.
After exiting the chamber, my skin temperature had a noticeable drop. I felt energized, but I think it was more about the experience. However, after just several minutes putting clothes back on and heading outside, it quickly dissipated. As for muscle soreness and recovery, I didn't notice a difference after one session. I've read that it's recommended 10-20 sessions, but there is not enough data to back this magic number of times. What I do know is 10-20 sessions would run big dollars, which wasn't going to fit in my fitness budget.
For my leg soreness, I love a good ice bath, but that too has its drawbacks at home. It's very inconvenient, often times uncomfortable, and expensive to buy bags of ice, and fill a tub or trash can for one or maybe 2 uses.
This is why I opt for reusable compression ice wraps for specific muscle and joint pain. After a hard run, I take a pair of the ActiveWrap Knee Ice Wraps and use them on both legs. They stay cold an easy 40 minutes so I typically hit 15 minutes on my lower legs and 15 on my upper quads and hamstrings and hit both sides. The price is the most affordable option. The convenience, portability, and no mess application is just as effective for my usage. The combination of compression and cold helps reduce muscle spasm thus reducing pain and soreness. Cryotherapy Saunas are indeed cool if you have cheap access to them, but for the price I'm gonna stay with my ice.
Shawn J Hickling is the founder of ActiveWrap Inc. He previously worked as a licensed sports and orthopedic PTA and was Aquatic Therapy director for over 15 years. He received his BSc in Exercise Physiology from Chapman University.