Cryotherapy: Freezing In Search of Summer Relaxation

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Courtesy / Bekah McNeel

The author visits Alamo City Cryotherapy.

I don’t think anyone makes it to their mid-30s without some wear and tear. High school athletics, college misadventures, terrible mattresses in my 20s, ultra-marathons, two pregnancies – they’ve all left their mark.

When I read that cryotherapy promises new blood, essentially flooding your organs with rejuvenation and health, I decided to make it my next stop in my summer of extreme relaxation. After floating my way to a focused mind and straight spine, I thought I’d give freezing a try.

I’ll be honest – cryotherapy beat out several heat-related therapies for the simple reason that it’s 100 degrees outside. I occasionally stand in front of my refrigerator and try to put my whole upper body inside. The cryo-spa seemed more satisfying.

Most cryo-spas, as they are called, are on the Northside, but Alamo City CryoTherapy found a home on South St. Mary’s Street between the former Francis Bogside pub and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The claims surrounding cryotherapy are bold enough to send up a red flag. Can two or three minutes in a freezing tube really activate the natural processes that help you shed weight, heal injuries, look younger, and excel at math (Okay, that last one isn’t part of the pitch)?

To put it simply, long-term benefits are unproven. However, the short-term benefits of localized cryotherapy are well-documented, and whole-body cryotherapy was invented by the Japanese, who have a pretty solid track record of health and longevity. Athletes have been climbing into ice baths forever, and many of them claim that cryotherapy is just as effective and far more pleasant and efficient.

Whole-body cryotherapy involves getting into a giant tube wearing nothing but wool socks and gloves, with your head poking out. A dry, cold fog fills the chamber until the temperature drops to minus-240 degrees and your skin temperature drops to 40 degrees.

As owner Monique Davila explained, it’s not the miserable experience you expect, because it’s not a “wet cold.” She stood nearby and talked to me the whole time as I rotated slowly in place and watched the clock tick down for two minutes. People who use the spa regularly work their way up to the maximum three minutes inside the chamber.

Davila and co-owner Jessica Ojeda opened the facility in January 2016. People come from all over town to get treatment, Davila said. She said that people visit Alamo City CryoTherapy for everything from athletic injuries to depression. On the day I was in, a high school football player visited the spa with his dad to receive compression therapy, another technology that targets blood flow.

I could feel my blood rushing to my core, as promised. My arms and legs felt heavy and blunt in the tube. When I stepped out, it felt like spearmint was running through my veins. A rush of cold-hot tingles traveled to my fingers and I was truly invigorated. I felt like I could jump really high. I couldn’t, but it’s nice to feel that way.

I felt invigorated for the rest of the afternoon, and as I stood outside at an event, I noticed that I was the only one without sweat pouring down my back, as the cooling effect lasts for a little while even when you return to the hot world.

Alamo City CryoTherapy offers a reduced price of $40 for first-timers. Subsequent treatments can be purchased individually or in the form of a monthly membership. 

While some may sneer at paying so much for something that lasts two to three minutes, for me – a working mother of two small children who seems to activate Murphy’s Law when I so much as sign up for a yoga class at the Y – the brevity of the process is part of the charm.

Having no serious medical conditions, I can’t speak to cryotherapy’s claims to help with joint pain, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, or other ailments. I was told that if I go often enough, the therapy will take care of my stretch marks by activating collagen production. I’m tempted to find out. If it works, that’s fantastic. If it doesn’t, I still wouldn’t mind feeling that celery-in-the-crisper coolness I so often try to get from my own refrigerator.

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