Ice, Ice, Baby
Oasis Living heads down to Iwona Specialty Clinic to see whether cryotherapy is a health and wellness trend worth the hype
Not many would expect the experience of potential frostbite to be therapeutic, but then again cryotherapy isn’t your average treatment.
A non-surgical cosmetic therapy, it uses extremely cold temperatures to push the body into benefits ranging from reducing pain and inflammation, skin tightening, collagen production and calorie burning.
The reason behind its popularity is that most athletes and celebrities swear by it specifically for muscle recovery and improving physical performance, depending of course on what time of the day you go in. It has also recently received the stamp of approval by doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists worldwide.
When you think of a clinic, first thing that anyone will most probably visualise is a white, dull space with a piercing scent of bleach in the air and greets (or lack thereof) from impassive nurses and physicians, though this was not the case at this clinic.
The interiors here offer shades of violet grey; soothing lavender hues coupled with Victorian-style floor-to-ceiling wallpapers and statue busts, putting you at immediate ease and fading away the fear of freezing your fingertips off. Plus you are greeted with smiling staff members who are just as calm offering you berry tea. It could not get any more relaxing than that.
Prior to kicking things off, the physiotherapist led us to her office for the consultation and preparation process where we went through pages of laws and regulations to sign off on our health.
Before walking us through the phases which our bodies were to go through, they checked our blood pressure to make sure everything is okay as this treatment is not for the faint of heart, literally, and is said to be dangerous for people with heart diseases and pregnancies.
Next, we were taken to the cryotherapy room. The chamber is reminiscent of a police interrogation room complete with the surveillance camera but minus the one-way mirror, although, you’ll hardly be able to see outside due to the semi-blinding vapour.
What sets Iwona apart from most places offering cryotherapy is the fact that the hyper-cooled environment is maintained through a circulation of electrically fanned air as oppose to the proven-to-be harmful liquid nitrogen-fuelled gas.
One of the biggest differences between Iwona’s treatment and others in the city is the fact that the chamber allows for the entire body to be exposed to the therapy. Many other establishments feature a tanning bed layout wherein the body is encased but the head stands above. This is said to be dangerous since the head is not aligned in the same temperature as the heart’s. On the other hand, at Iwona, the physiotherapist is watching and communicating with us through a built-in system.
Thankfully, since we were first-timers at this, we were told that we would not be stark naked and instead asked to slip into comfortable cotton shirts, shorts, and a pair of socks. Afterwards, we were asked to slip into crocs and were then helped into some elbow sleeves and gloves along with fuzzy head bands and surgical masks – sound like we were being Punk’d yet?
We were also asked to pick out a song to dance and jump around to make it through the entirety of the session (for those interested, we ended up grooving to Cheb Khaled’s C’est La Vie and Calvin Harris’ Summer, ironically enough).
The chilly treatment – much like a sauna but here you are encased in at a temperature as low as -110 degrees Celsius – lasted for three minutes during which we were taken through stages from room temperature to -60 degrees Celsius to help get us accustomed to the cool before receiving the full blast of the -110.
The first thing that happens when you’re hit with the cold is it contracts the blood vessels in your skin’s surface and helps catalyse the process of filtering out any toxins from your blood, releasing a slew of nutrients and endorphins throughout your body.
I felt the cold fastest and harshest in my knee caps, and according to the physiotherapist, those are apparently my most overworked spots. Good thing we scheduled to come in the day after our most strenuous workout of the week.
After exiting the chamber, we went through a post-treatment warm up where we directly hopped onto a stationary assault bike for a couple of minutes to warm the body back to its natural state and temperature – circulating oxygen and nutrients-enriched blood back to the body’s peripheral systems/tissues. The entire experience took about 15 minutes and then we were off with our day feeling fresh and recharged.
So, the next time you need a pick-me-up, you have the option of stepping into a Dh300 cryotherapy treatment instead of a grab-and-go Joe.
Like all physiological treatments, cryotherapy will not magically zap away all your woes, which is why it is key to stay consistent as studies show that it takes two to three sessions per week to see the optimal results. In fact, Iwona herself recommends it every day.