Prepare yourself for the ultimate chill factor in terms of spa treatments. This growing icy fad takes it's name from the Greek language 'Cryo' meaning 'cold' and 'therapy' relating to 'cure'. The idea behind it is that by subjecting the body to an extremely low temperature (minus 132 degrees!) for a short period of time it will serve to increase blood circulation, therefore invigorating the mind and body and aiding injury recovery. This treatment is particularly enjoyable as part of a spa day when combined with other treatments.
The Cryotherapy treatment process will vary according to your injury, or where you have the treatment administered, and although it can be cosmetic, it’s largely used to treat injuries or ailments. Think back to the swollen ankle you received playing netball or that bump on your head - your first thoughts turn to grabbing the nearest bag of frozen peas to stop the swelling and ease the pain. This is just one, slightly smaller (and more amateurish) version of cryotherapy. Another, and one you're more likely to see on a treatment menu, subjects the entire body to these extreme conditions.
The treatment will begin with a qualified cryotherapist giving you a brief medical examination, checking your pulse and blood pressure to ensure you’re fit for what lies ahead. You’ll then change into an outfit resembling little more than a bathing suit for women and shorts for men with only clogs, socks, gloves and mouth and ear protection to shield your extremities from acute frostbite.
Looking natty in your full, glorious regalia you’ll then be asked to step into the first of two ice chambers. Inside, the air will be cooled, typically with liquid nitrogen, to a temperature of minus 60 degrees and is bone dry, as any humidity would cause scalding. After a very brief 30 second stint to allow your body to acclimatise, you’ll then be ushered into a second chamber with a temperature averaging minus 132 degrees below freezing. Once inside you are encouraged to shout, dance, skip or jump around to avoid completely icing over! After three minutes your glacial experience is completed and you are released from the chamber. The session will end with a turn on the exercise bike, a swim (dependent upon your spa's facilities) or a brisk massage to warm you up.
The feel-good factor should kick in as soon as you leave the chamber and begin to warm up, and the overall experience is described as uplifting and exhilarating. Your brief encounter ensconced in polar conditions will encourage greater blood circulation, therefore delivering more nutrients and oxygen to the organs making sure you feel revitalised and full of beans.
In order to enjoy continual and heightened benefits more than one session is recommended, however there should be at least a day apart between exposure to the ice chambers. And for all those uneasy about glazing over, a fully trained member of staff keeps a constant vigil, so if at any time you feel uncomfortable you can easily leave the chamber.
Clearly individuals who suffer from claustrophobia should not embark upon this treatment and it is also advised that pregnant women and those with poor circulation, heart problems and epilepsy should avoid the experience.
The body reacts to the extreme cold by working overtime and as such kick-starts the body's essential systems, which can lead to the alleviation of painful symptoms - from rheumatism and osteoporosis, to multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and depression. It’s also been flagged up as an anti-cellulite and skin-firming treatment.
Extremely popular amongst sportsmen for the fact it increases blood flow and helps ease pain and reduce swelling, it also aids faster recovery of the muscles in between training sessions, meaning athletes can train harder, longer and more frequently if they undergo the treatment frequently.
It’s claimed the Japanese were the first to use ice chambers as an alternative therapy and Cryotherapy (also spelt the Polish way – Kriotherapy) is now very popular in Eastern European countries. Before Cryotherapy centres were established in the UK, British sportsmen could often be found in Poland making good use of the facilities and it was Will Greening - former England Rugby player, who was the inspiration behind the UK's first dedicated Cryotherapy centre, The London Kriotherapy centre in Battersea.