At Pasadena’s LA Cryo, you can supercool your way to joint and muscle pain relief.
Story By Cuyler Gibbons Images: Courtesy LA Cryo Spa
Nitrogen is not just for cold-brew coffee anymore. It’s also a fast-growing method for reducing pain following surgery, injury, or exercise. Athletes have long used post-game ice baths to treat muscle and joint damage resulting from athletic exertion.
These days, however, in a professional (or Olympic-level) sports environment, where the big boys and girls train, you’re more likely to encounter a nitrogen gas-filled cryotherapy chamber than a tub filled with ice and water. Like a traditional ice bath, a stint in a cryo chamber, usually three minutes, exposes the body to extremely cold temperatures, reducing inflammation and enhancing muscle recovery.
Recently I visited LA Cryo in Pasadena to experience the treatment for myself. LA Cryo was founded by two Pasadena locals, Ody Martin and Ruth Fournier. When I arrived at the spa, Fournier greeted me, explained the procedure, and led me to the dressing room.
Whole Body Cryotherapy, or WBC, typically takes place standing up in a cylinder with your neck and head exposed, clothed only in thick dry socks, rubber sandals, and gloves (men also wear underwear). Nitrogen vapor is introduced to the tank, lowering the air temperature surrounding your body to between minus 110 and minus 190 Fahrenheit. First introduced in Japan in the 1970s to treat pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, cryo chamber treatments are quicker, more comfortable, and more effective than traditional ice baths.
I stepped into the chamber, Fournier shut the chamber door, and I removed my robe and passed it to her. Then the temperature began to drop. Precipitously. Fournier instructed me to periodically rotate my body in the chamber, which I did. She helpfully informed me that the chamber is set up with a fail-safe kill switch, which requires that she reinitiate the cold system every minute so there is no danger of getting trapped and turned into a popsicle. Initially as the temperature plunged, three minutes seemed like a VERY long time. I began to shiver, rotating occasionally and concentrating on my breathing as the minutes passed. When the door opened, I leapt out and wrapped myself in my robe, hungry for some warmth.
As the temperature drops and your body cools, it begins to regulate blood flow to your core to protect vital organs, where it gets super-oxygenated and picks up nutrients and enzymes. When you exit the chamber, as your body warms, that nutrient-rich blood flow returns to the skin’s surface, muscles, and joints. At the same time, those brain-tickling endorphins and anti-inflammatory proteins are released. There is no denying that mighty endorphin rush.
A few minutes after exiting the chamber, I felt like I’d just finished a very satisfying workout or run. In fact, because your body must work to stay warm, the chamber serves to rev your metabolism. A three-minute session is said to burn as many as 800 calories. I didn’t go in with any particular joint or muscle pain to be addressed, but the evidence of its efficacy in this regard is voluminous, and the number of professional and elite athletes who swear by the treatment are a testament to its effectiveness.
LA Cryo Spa is open Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Call 626-829-2796 or make an appointment online at lacryo.life.