Jen Birn—For a long time I dismissed cryotherapy as the stuff of science fiction movies. Little did I know that people around the world are trying it out in real life and using it to cure a variety of ailments, including jet lag.
The name naturally evokes a scene from a Philip K. Dick novel and the description of what happens to you does little to dispel those thoughts.
During cryotherapy you are placed into a chamber for two minutes that is cooled to about -220 degrees. You wear little to no clothes.
The practice has been popular in Europe for a couple of decades. According to Jonas Kuehne, who owns LA-based Cryohealthcare with his wife Emilia, cryotherapy chambers are common in both hospitals in Europe and in high-end hotels because of the treatment’s benefit of fending off jet lag.
“We have a lot of people who travel between NYC and LA who come here straight from the airport. They feel exhausted and it rejuvenates your entire body, so it’s really beneficial for jet lag,” Emilia Kuehne said.
Lauren Hansen, the director of of °Cryo Stay Young, a cryotherapy outlet in Southern California explained to me just how the cryo therapy can work on jet lag.
“Cryotherapy helps with jet lag because it delivers oxygen saturated blood to the body, creating a release of endorphins that not only give you immediate energy but also help regulate sleep patterns.” She said, "I am currently traveling at our headquarters in Dubai, which is an 11 hour time difference from LA. I got off the plane and did a session and went to sleep that night with no issue. I have not taken one nap, been tired or fatigued at all, or had any trouble falling asleep at night here. It’s been amazing!”
People also use cryotherapy for acute pain, chronic pain management, recovery from athletic injuries and weight loss. Allegedly a two-minute session can burn between 500-800 calories in the 48 hours after you’ve been frozen!
“You’re in a very hostile environment, your body think it’s going to die in there. Three minutes is a very safe time to be in there but your body still mounts a massive defense to survive as long as possible and one of the defenses is to regulate your metabolism to optimize cellular processes, speed up healing and be able to produce body heat faster. These things all burn calories,” Jonas Kuehne explained.
I first tried cryotherapy earlier this year for a tweaked back following knee surgery.
After I arrived they directed me to a changing room and instructed me to take off all my clothes and put on a pair of knee socks, clogs, gloves, earmuffs and a robe.
I was shown the two-door chamber and told to select a song I wanted to hear inside. I chose Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.”
The staff assured me I would be fine and that if I wanted to come out, the doors remained unlocked.
I took a deep breath and went for it. It was like walking outside in the dead of winter.
My senses were immediately on high alert. I felt my endorphins kick in and my adrenaline surge. My music was blasting and I started lightly dancing in the closet-like box and punching the air to the music, with a smile on my face.
A voice notified me every 30 seconds how much time remained. When the voice announced I was done I pushed open the door and willed my frozen limbs to move quick enough to get my robe back on and exit the chamber.
The endorphin-boost left me feeling instantly energized and less stressed. Moving around a minute I realized I was also out of pain.
It hurts so good! (Photo: Jen Birn)
Flying back from Ireland three months post-surgery my knee began to swell at 30,000 feet. Since swelling is usually caused by inflammation, two minutes in the cryo chamber that afternoon instantly reduced the swelling. The rush of cold air also woke me up enough to get through the day and it felt like a reset button for my body as it acclimated to back to reality in Los Angeles. It had actually worked to help alleviate at least some of the symptoms of my jet lag.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.