Above: Adam Geiger gives Beth the Freeze 411.
The joke in my social circle is that I’m the one who is always cold. I wear sweaters in the summer and crank up the thermostat by September. So when my editor asked me if I wanted to try out the new deep-freezing CryoPoint chamber at Performance Physical Therapy and Wellness in Greenwich, she initially got a chilly reception.
but then she promised me that the cryotherapy treatments were brief and sent a cool picture of her friend’s teenage son with his head popping out of a sleek tube enveloped in a thick Arctic mist; I was curious enough to say okay.
I was dispatched to Performance PT&W’s newly renovated state-of-the-art headquarters in Cos Cob. There, I was introduced to the freezing-for-health concept by owner Todd Wilkowski. The physical therapist explained that he launched CryoPoint at his facilities as part of an effort to enhance wellness options such as nutrition, personal training and physical therapy. “The idea is to get you healthy and keep you well,” he says.
THE FINE PRINT
While enthusiasts in Japan and Europe have long claimed the treatments can reduce inflammation, speed athletic recovery time, boost metabolism, increase circulation and even promote a more youthful glow, Wilkowski stressed he cannot promise those things because the treatments are not FDA approved in the U.S. Despite the caveat, he said his clients are trying CryoPoint at his Greenwich and Darien locations hoping it can accelerate injury recovery, diminish the aches of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, improve athletic performance and even accelerate weight loss.
HOW IT WORKS
Wilkowski explained that the concept is similar to that of applying an ice pack to an achy joint but in an intensified, whole-body way. Frozen liquid nitrogen is blasted at the body at temperatures as low as negative-260 degrees. Being subjected to this temperature throws the body into a “fight or flight” state, where blood rushes to the vital organs. After the treatment, as the body temperature returns to normal, the blood rushes back to the extremities, bathing joints in super-oxygenated blood. This biological reaction is what some proponents claim has an anti-inflammatory, healing effect. The recommended frequency depends on your goals, but first-time users are encouraged to try two or three sessions in the first week and continue treatment for six to eight weeks.
I was encouraged to eat, drink and exercise normally before arriving and was asked to fill out a detailed health history. Many of the questions focused on cardiovascular diseases—such as a history of heart attacks or high blood pressure—that make the process riskier. It’s also a no-no for pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions that may cause sensitivity to the cold.
Medically cleared, I was escorted to a changing room and given a small towel to wipe my body of any moisture because sweat and lotions can burn the skin during treatment. Then, it was time to slip on a fluffy white towel wrap, knee-high socks and some frumpy slippers.
READY, SET, FREEZE
CryoPoint staffer Adam Geiger helped me into the CryoPoint chamber. It reminded me of a sleeker, oversized version of those deposit cylinders used at the bank drive-thru. Once inside, I stripped off the towel and Adam gave me some oversized mittens. (Protecting vulnerable extremities from frost bite is a requisite.) Otherwise, my torso was bare.
I gave a go sign and the chamber was turned on, delivering a blast of ultra-cold mist that evoked an immediate physical and emotional reaction. “This is the coldest cold you will ever experience,” Wilkowski told me. He wasn’t exaggerating. I was gasping in shock, stifling curses, yet giddy.
Once I got over the shock, I found taking deep breaths made the process more tolerable. Nothing about the treatment was painful, but I was numb, a little shocked and then, completely exhilarated.
Normally, a treatment lasts three minutes, but because I was a first-timer Adam recommended two (standard with new clients). So, just as I had settled into the searing cold, my treatment was over. I came out of the tube relieved to be at room temperature, but also experiencing the endorphin kick of a really intense workout.
I entered the chamber at noon. A few hours later, I ran into a friend, who told me my skin “looked amazing,” a glowing side effect I was told to expect from the circulation boost. At midnight, I was purging my closets. My euphoric state led me to think the buzz about the treatment’s ability to accelerate metabolism by 500 to 800 calories a day is plausible. And while I realize it could be a placebo effect, my slightly arthritic right hip was pain-free for four days. Would I do it again? In a really cold three minutes.
Photograph by William Taufic
THE LOCAL CELEBRITY FAN
Good Morning America coanchor Lara Spencer, who recently had hip replacement surgery, was at Performance for her regular physical therapy when I visited. She told me she’s been having regular CryoPoint treatments and feels it’s helped with her post-surgical recovery. (LeBron James, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Mavericks are other noteworthy devotees.) As we compared notes, I noticed my speech was unusually rapid—Lara said the therapy puts her in overdrive, too. “I get an energy boost every time I go in,” she said. “I don’t like to be cold, but I can do anything for three minutes.”
35 River Road, 203-422-0679; performance-pt.com
WHAT IT COSTS
Sessions are $75 each, but the first session is free. Buying session packages reduces costs for frequent freezers.