The coolest way to treat skin conditions, lose weight and get healthy is catching on in Canada.

ice ice

Cryotherapy isn’t anything new—it’s been practised in Japan since 1978—but Canadians are just starting to warm up to this chilly treatment. In cryotherapy, the body is subjected to  extreme cold for a short period of time for therapeutic and anti-aging benefits. We spoke with Roman Gersh, a clinical technician at Cryotherapy Health & Wellness Inc. (cryotherapytoronto.ca) to learn more about the wellness and anti-aging benefits of this treatment.

Technical Talk: The Basics of Crythotherapy

A session of cryotherapy involves standing in a cryosauna—which looks like a shower stall—for two or three minutes, at a whopping -160°C, in your undies and specially designed footwear with thin socks.

“It’s a very different temperature than outside temperatures: If you were to go outside in -160°C weather, you would turn into a Popsicle within seconds,” explains Gersh. “The cryosauna is different because there is absolutely no humidity whatsoever—that’s what makes it tolerable and safe. Nitrogen does not carry any moisture, which is what you’re exposed to.”

Inducing Panic to Improve Your Health

Essentially, when you’re subjecting your body to such extreme cold, you’re tricking your brain into thinking that you’re freezing to death. While this seems akin to torture, your body kicks into survival mode and does some pretty amazing work.

“It takes just 30 seconds for the surface of your skin to reach a temperature that will trigger receptors that shoot signals to the  brain saying that the body is in danger,” explains Gersh.

The first thing that happens is the release of endorphins, which not only act as natural pain killers but also help to reduce anxiety and depression. Next, your brain focuses on protecting internal organs from freezing. “The brain sends your blood to the core to keep it warm and heat it up—this burns viruses in your blood and allows fresh oxygen and nutrients to circulate in your blood," explains Gersh.

The Benefits of Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy became very popular in Europe in the early 1980s as a means to treat arthritis and fibromyalgia. The treatment is still relatively new to the Canadian market. It may start gaining popularity, as many studies have shown the numerous benefits of transitioning from hot to cold temperatures, including the following:            

  • Increased collagen production: Your skin will regain lost elasticity with increased collagen production, and you’ll also notice a reduction in cellulite.
  • Reduction in redness: Your skin tone will improve greatly, as freshly oxygenated blood delivers nutrients at a dermal level.
  • Immune system boost: As your blood heats up, your body rids itself of toxins.
  • Reduced stress and anxiety: The release of endorphins boosts your mood and helps alleviate depression.
  • Rapid healing: If you have an injury, the circulation of reoxygenated blood helps your body heal faster.
  • Reduction in chronic pain: Shrinking the inflammation around joints can alleviate pain and discomfort.
  • Weight loss: After you step out of the cryosauna, your body  tries to raise its internal temperature and can actually burn anywhere from 500 to 1,500 calories in the process.

What You Can Expect

“First, we do a consultation to explain how the treatment works and how a person can benefit; then we figure out the best course of action for the individual to see how many treatments they might need,” explains Gersh. “Many people come in for a specific concern and find that the treatment helps in other ways that they weren’t expecting. Before their first session, everyone is very hesitant, but most people say it doesn’t feel as cold as they expected.”

Each session becomes more tolerable. People typically undergo five to 10 sessions—it typically takes about five sessions to start to see the physical benefits, and 10 sessions over two or three weeks yields the best results.

COST: $45 to $60 per session

Safety First! 

We want to know why cryotherapy got a bad rap. As with any anti-aging or wellness practice using technology and large devices, cryotherapy must be practised safely and in a trusted clinic. We’ve seen a few cases in the news where people have stayed in the cryosaunas for too long, likely hoping for better results. Make sure that you’re going to a reputable clinic and, more importantly, that you feel comfortable before proceeding with any type of treatment—your safety is always the most important!