A trendy new treatment for a number of ailments and injury recovery, Rob Cockerill takes the plunge and explores this innovative therapy for gasworld.
It's become one of the hottest trends and the coolest of modern day therapies – quite literally.
Cryotherapy as a replenishing and rejuvenating treatment has been gaining rapidly increasing popularity both in the public domain and celebrity circles.
Freezing the body down to temperatures as low as -135°C for brief yet intense treatment sessions, cryotherapy is hailed as an inspiring method of body stimulation.
So positive are the vibes concerning this uber-cool treatment, that the industrial gas-consuming therapy reportedly has fans as diverse as pop group Take That’s Jason Orange and Champion racing jockey Tony McCoy.
Indeed horse racing’s McCoy became a regular user of cryotherapy during his recovery from a stable fracture of the lower back, citing the innovative technique as a factor for such a rapid physical response. McCoy would go on to recover from his injury in just a two month timeframe.
Take That’s Orange meanwhile, is believed to use the treatment as a means of keeping himself physically fit, supple, and capable of performing the rigorous dance routines that accompany the modern day pop star.
So what is cryotherapy?
As I enter the luxurious surroundings of the Champneys health spa in Tring, UK, the sense
of celebrity stardom and palatial promise becomes apparent.
This is a centre for relaxation, recovery and rejuvenation. A place where physical and mental wellbeing are carefully catered for and the very latest in innovative, inspiring treatments is provided.
Perhaps the most pioneering method of late
is cryotherapy, a therapy Champneys is keen
Wholebody Kriotherapy, as it’s termed at Champneys, is a revitalising experience which involves spending just three minutes in a specialised chamber at -135°C.
Launched in Japan in 1978, Kriotherapy is a popular treatment in Eastern Europe and fast becoming a favourable experience in Western Europe too.
Champneys Tring is the first place in the UK to offer the ‘dry cold’ therapy – a treatment which demands a considerable consumption of liquid nitrogen to achieve the super-cold temperatures.
Such a super-cool environment that has been experienced by an estimated audience of more than one million people in Japan, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and the UK.
An exhilarating experience
Joining those one million-plus users, I venture to Champneys Tring to undergo Wholebody Kriotherapy for gasworld.
As I sit in an examination room and have both my blood pressure and pulse rate taken, it becomes clear just how stringent the safety precautions are for this novel treatment.
Preparation is key. An initial health consultation is standard practice, establishing whether healthy enough to proceed. Special clothing and protective items are essential, while skin must be dry and free of any products or scents prior to treatment.
My pulse rate is a little high and indicative of my apprehension for what I’m about to subject my body to, but I’m passed fit for the sub-zero therapy and ushered towards a changing room.
As I strip down to the bare essentials and don my trendy outfit, the nerves are jangling. I have to wear shorts, two pairs of socks (up to the knees), two pairs of gloves, and a headband to protect my ears.
My modesty and delicate areas are taken care of, but before we’re finished I’m given clogs for my feet and a mouth mask – all that remains is a final debrief.
I’m ready for the big freeze….and we enter
The chamber is divided into two small rooms and as the first door opens, a mist of ‘dry cold’ air greets us and we’re in. It’s -60°C to bring you down to temperature gently and acclimatise!
Initially it’s a shock to the system, yet as we walk anti-clockwise around the confines of the room it doesn’t feel so bad, it’s almost exciting.
Thirty seconds later and a tap at the door from outside tell us it’s time to move through
the internal door, and on to stage two. In we go, into the second room where the freezing air of -135°C hits you like a wall of cold and I can feel the power of the liquid nitrogen as a coolant.
The plummeting temperature is a shock and it’s important to keep moving, to stretch the arms regularly as we walk. Even more shocking are the squat thrusts you’re encouraged to do every so often, crouching toward the chillingly cold floor and feeling almost a wind chill factor as you slowly rise again and resume walking.
After just a minute at this temperature, I’m questioning quite what I’m doing here. It’s a challenge and one I’m keen to see through, so much so that as we enter the final minute it begins to feel almost normal.
It’s still mind-numbingly cold. The squat thrusts bring you back to reality and admittedly, I can feel a tension around my knees which worries me a little. But it’s bearable and I now think I’m enjoying it!
“Do I really want it to end?” I ask myself. It does end though, the three minutes are up and another tap at the window indicates it’s time to move back through the chamber and exit.
I couldn’t feel the outside warmth as I’d expected, though I could feel my inner body heat.
To deal with the extreme cold, my brain sends messages to withdraw blood to the body’s core to maintain temperature. Once the perceived ‘threat’ is over, the same blood is pumped vigorously back around the body and the benefits are felt.
Indeed, limbering down outside the chamber and removing socks and gloves, I’m on the verge of breaking into a sweat.
I’m so warm inside it’s unreal – you wouldn’t realise you’ve just endured sub-zero conditions. Yet at the same time, you do realise you’ve just had Wholebody Kriotherapy, as the blood pumps and a sensation of rejuvenation is felt.
I’m told the endorphins have been triggered and not only is my body benefitting from enhanced oxygen and nutrient supply in the blood, but a sense of wellbeing and improved fitness is enjoyed almost instantly.
My body has been pushed to the limit and the results are obvious. A post-chamber exercise session follows, as I use the exercise bike for around 10 minutes under supervision and then experience a brief Vibrogym workout to ensure a steady warm-down.
As I leave the Kriotherapy treatment room, I exit refreshed and energised. I’m also of the understanding that while the chamber could be used to go as low down as -160°C, no-one at Champneys Tring has yet gone lower than -145°C.
It’s evidently the coolest new therapy around, in every respect. So popular is Kriotherapy that as I had nervously awaited instructions
to enter the chamber, I wasn’t the only one stripped to the core in anticipation.
A universally-known, former heavyweight world boxing champion stands close by, waiting to savour the many benefits of the chamber.
Celebrities and sports stars alike are regulars it seems, often sampling the merits of this revolutionary treatment and underlining the growing strength of popularity. Images of champion jockey Tony McCoy adorn the waiting area wall, while a sense of significance fills the air.
Kriotherapy began at Champneys Tring last year and has since gone on to achieve huge favour.
Nicola Doe, Spa Development Manager at Tring, explained, “We started on the 7th January 2008 and since then we have received a lot of press which has created awareness. We have had various athletes and sports personalities come and use the equipment, while the general public are also more aware and are willing to give the treatment a try.”
“We have regular club members that use the Kriotherapy as part of their fitness regime. In the first couple of months of the chamber being open we had only a few people a day having the treatment – now we have at least 12 people a day.”
So, gasworld asked, is this just a therapy for the rich and famous? It seems not, as Doe kindly illustrates.
“We do have a lot of celebrities and sports stars using the treatment, but it is also very popular with our other guests and club members as there are so many benefits.”
“It is a treatment that is good for a lot of ailments, so everyone can find a reason to have the treatment. We also get a lot of couples and groups of friends enjoying the experience, as they can go into the chamber together and the price of the treatment is affordable,” Doe enthuses.
Wholebody Kriotherapy is fast becoming a resoundingly popular treatment around the world then – and in turn, a considerable consumer of liquid nitrogen.
So just how much of an end-user is this treatment?
At Champneys Tring alone, demand is substantial. The Linde Group’s BOC supplies the esteemed health spa with its large quota, providing a merchant supply through bulk load trucked-in to Tring.
The site houses a large nitrogen tank, from which the chamber draws on its resource for the coolant.
Doe explained, “Yes it is a large consumer of nitrogen, BOC will come automatically when the cylinder goes down to 60% full. The tank holds 6000 litres of nitrogen and the tank is generally filled once a month, dependent on client demand.”
With such a level of consumption experienced at one site alone, it’s not inconceivable to expect Kriotherapy to become a huge growth driver for industrial gas demand in the future.
As Doe pointed out, much of the consumption is based on client demand. The treatment would therefore need to continue with its rapid rise in popularity to represent a strong business operation for the gases industry.
BOC Medical indicates this is already something of a strong user and business is doing comparatively well.
So what of Champneys Tring? Does the luxurious and welcoming health spa envisage further developments in its Kriotherapy offering?
“Currently we are not going to expand the Kriotherapy at any of the other resorts, due to space – the nitrogen tank is
quite large!” Doe said. “Although, if the Kriotherapy continues to be a success we will look at the possibility of bringing the treatment to the other resorts.”
gasworld would like to thank Champneys for its hospitality, welcoming team, and willing cooperation with this feature article, all of which are greatly appreciated.
Special thanks go to the Marketing department’s Lorraine Ariano for making the visit possible.