As a college athlete, I was subjected to more ice baths than I care to remember. They were billed as recovery vessels – the chance to decompress my body to frigid water in a supposed effort to fight off inflammation. I just remember them as dreadful and joked that I would just as soon have my arms never work again than have to endure one more soak.
How far we have come in just a decade, where we can take the benefits of what ice baths were accomplishing and ramping them up with technology, all while looking at scientific research in the process. It sure beats my college trainer dumping buckets of ice into water and telling me to jump in, because “it should help you out”. This didn’t exactly instill confidence in me.
So what is Cryotherapy? Well:
Whole Body Cryotherapy is rooted in the practice of Dr. Yamaguchi of Japan who, in 1978 started freezing treatments of short duration on his rheumatoid arthritis patients’ skin for pain management purpose. It is now being recognized as an important restorative treatment for the body and mind. When your body is briefly exposed to temperatures ranging from -184ºF to -264ºF extreme cold it stimulates temperature receptors in the skin to activate the nervous, immune and endocrine systems.
The brain gives orders to all peripheral parts of the body to constrict and send blood to the core of the body. Once exiting the chamber, the blood vessels, muscles and skin tissues expand enriching the peripheral tissues with the enhanced blood. This beneficial process continues in the body for 6 to 8 hours after the treatment.
There are three components to a Cryotherapy session: Removing, Restoring, and Reviving. Your body is an amazing thing, and most of us probably know that exposure to cold temperatures leads your body to pull blood away from the “unimportant” extremities and pull it to keep vital organs warm and working (see frost bite). Essentially, during a short session in subzero temperatures, blood vessels in your skin’s surface and muscle tissue constrict, pushing blood away from the outside tissues and toward your core. In the core, your body’s filtration system removes toxins and inflammatory components of the blood. Seeing as these sessions are only minutes your heart is pushing out new (“filtered”) and better blood (enriched with oxygen, nutrients and enzymes) back out to your body shortly after. This is why some individuals are able to feel more flexible, limber, and have improved range of motion. It also claims to keep working up to two days afterwards, making recovery quicker and pain/inflammation limited.
I will be the first to admit that cryotherapy, on its surface, is a pretty intimidating ordeal when you don’t know what to expect. I mean, just look at the above picture. 213 degrees…BELOW ZERO. I know I start whining about temperatures when we hit 50 degrees, so I had concerns about my ability to physically AND mentally handle this. Luckily Joy, owner of Capitol Cryo in Salem, was a calming influence and created the perfect atmosphere for my first time.
Joy told me that she and her husband became believers when an injury was cured after some cryotherapy and they couldn’t wait to be the first cryo business in the capitol city. Capitol Cryo is located with DIG Fit (just off of 25th Avenue and next to Salem Ale Works). For a small space, it’s beautifully decorated and welcoming. After filling out some basic paperwork and giving me a calming overview of what was going to occur, I was led to a changing room. I disrobed except for my underwear and were given a pair of socks and a robe to change into. I was cold just standing in the room!
When Joy opened the chamber door, I legitimately expected it to sound like when Ray Knight enters the chamber to steal dinosaur embryos in Jurassic Park. It was definitely a little intimidating. After I entered, I traded the robe for a pair of gloves, a very welcome accessory and waited for my fate. As the numbers slowly lowered, Joy kept me talking and laughing and told me that I could either stand still or move around. I chose the latter. Her ongoing and reassuring “how are you doing?” must have been a direct response to my sharp inhales when the cooling kicked on. To be honest, I think it was more of the inexperience than anything as to why I was stressed out. It was obviously cold (duh), but I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. There was one point when my legs started to get a little “prickly”, but really never rose beyond that level. I strongly believe that ongoing sessions and the knowledge of what to expect would make things much easier going forward.
As I got out, it was definitely an interesting sensation that came over me. It was like I could feel my body warming up from the core outwards. I know it’s silly, but it was almost like I could sense the new blood entering back into my body inch by inch – and it felt really…good. While I am mostly healthy at this current moment (fingers crossed) I could definitely see how this could help those with inflammation, arthritis, and soreness in the bodies.
Following my “freeze”, I was treated to my first “squeeze”, which is a 20-30 minute session in giant NormaTEC Compression leg sleeves.
What is NormaTEC?
NormaTec is the leader in rapid recovery—our systems give a competitive edge to the world’s elite athletes, coaches, and trainers. Our goal is to establish recovery as an integral part of every athlete’s training, and we feel NormaTec systems are the best way to accomplish that. The NormaTec PULSE Recovery Systems are dynamic compression devices designed for recovery and rehab. All of our systems use NormaTec’s patented PULSE technology to help athletes recover faster between trainings and after performance.
Our systems include a control unit and attachments which go on the legs, arms, or hips. They use compressed air to massage your limbs, mobilize fluid, and speed recovery with our patented NormaTec Pulse Massage Pattern. When you use our systems, you will first experience a pre-inflate cycle, during which the connected attachments are molded to your exact body shape. The session will then begin by compressing your feet, hands, or upper quad (depending on which attachment you are using). Similar to the kneading and stroking done during a massage, each segment of the attachment will first compress in a pulsing manner and then release. This will repeat for each segment of the attachment as the compression pattern works its way up your limb.
Simply put, it felt like a massage, yet with continual pressure. It was like a leg hug and massage wrapped up in one.
This short 30 minute session was super relaxing and I really felt like it was assisting in working out some lingering soreness in my legs. It was also explained to me that this could work on legs as a whole or be programmed to focus on a more acute area – like calves and ankles if that is an injured or trouble spot.
After about a total of no more than 45 minutes from start to finish, my legs immediately felt looser and more limber than they had in a while. I felt ready for a run, which is actually something that Joy said that many ultrarunners say – they come in pre-run instead of post-run. Whichever way you decide to, we recommend you give it a shot.
One final note to consider – even if Salem seems far out of your way, it may indeed be closer than some Portland options if you happen to live in Portland’s ‘burbs. Capitol Cryo regularly sees clients from Wilsonville and Tigard, as they determined that the time spent driving into and through Portland, as well as finding parking, was the same or longer than heading south to Salem. The miles may be more, but the time may be closer than you think!
2319 25th St SE
Salem, OR 97302
Inside DIG Fit
There are a variety of different pricing options:
- First Time – $25
- 1x / $50
- 4x / $180
- 8x / $320
- 12x / $420
- NormaTEC Compression
- 30 minutes – $20
- 1 hour – $35
- Monthly Memberships
- Cryo Membership – $199
- Unlimited Cryo
- 1 NormaTEC /Month
- NormaTEC Membership – $99
- Unlimited NormaTEC
- 1 Cryo/Month
- Wellness Membership – $249
- Unlimited Cryo and NormaTEC
- Cryo Membership – $199
Thank you to Capitol Cryo for providing us with a session. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.