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What Happened When One Runner Tried Cryotherapy

You've probably heard of the sports treatment, cryotherapy, but do you know what the process is like? One runner tried it to find out.

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Run, stretch, foam roll, ice, repeat. Sound familiar? If you’re a runner diligent about your workout recovery, that’s almost certainly your schedule. The most proactive among us may indulge in the occasional Epsom salt bath or deep-tissue massage after a long run or grueling training week. For the last few decades, those practices have been the sum total of treatments—until recently.

Now sports-specific spas offer the option to deep-freeze your body, indulge in infrared treatments and float in a sensory-deprivation tank—all in the name of relieving tired muscles, reducing inflammation and soothing frazzled minds. The question is whether or not they work. There are more anecdotal stories than science when it comes to new modalities, leaving athletes wondering what is worth their time and money.

Whole-Body Cryotherapy

If you’ve ever had a wart frozen off, you’ve had a type of cryotherapy. Sports-related treatments involve standing in a chamber pumped full of minus-250-degree air for two to four minutes.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS: The cooling may help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.

MY EXPERIENCE: I was very nervous about this treatment. While standing in the chamber in my birthday suit, save for socks and gloves, my hands and lower legs got chilly, but the temperature was shockingly manageable. No, it doesn’t hurt. Survival tips include not staring at the clock, striking up a conversation with the attendant to help pass the time and, if advised, turning slowly for even cooling. While this wasn’t my favorite treatment—I don’t like being cold—I feel like it reduced inflammation and soreness. Plus, I slept great that night. I will try it again at some point.

DR. JORDAN METZL, A SPORTS-MEDICINE PHYSICIAN AND AUTHOR BASED IN NEW YORK CITY: “Cryotherapy is an extended byproduct of things I already recommend, like icing and ice baths. Of all the treatments mentioned, more of my patients have tried this than any other.”

COST: $65 for three minutes*

*Prices quoted are for Fahrenheit Body Spas in Basalt, Colo. Prices will vary by location.

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