VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Pro-athletes have been using cryotherapy for years to recover from injuries and reduce pain after games, but now that same technology of exposing your body to sub-zero temperatures is available to everyone - and for some, the results are life-changing.
Chesapeake resident Amy Caraway has had fibromyalgia for the past 10 years.
“When you're chronically fatigued and exhausted and hurting and inflammated all the time,” she explained.
The disorder can be debilitating, and there is no cure.
"Finally, it got to the point where I wasn't able to get out of bed,” she said.
Two years ago, a friend told her about cryotherapy - exposing your body to below-freezing temperatures for several minutes. We're talking more than 200 degrees below zero!
Amy made an appointment at Restore Hyper Wellness and Cryotherapy in Virginia Beach.
“It just takes it and kind of numbs it down,” Amy said.
She's been coming back once a week ever since.
“It takes it from a 10 to an eight and sometimes to a five."
Professional and collegiate athletes use it routinely to recover from injuries, but now it’s being used for chronic pain and other health issues.
“We know that cryotherapy works to help decrease inflammation in the body,” said Dr. Ryan Light.
Dr. Light says that cold therapy isn't new. Cold ice baths have been used for a variety of ailments, but cooling the body this low this fast is new and can be very effective.
"When we swell up a joint really big or with arthritis, what happens is that pressure is what causes the pain, so it slows down the pain and inflammation so that your body can heal more slowly instead of that over response,” he explained.
I wanted to see for myself what it would feel like to be stand in a canister in your birthday suit in sub-zero temperatures. So, registered nurse Jason Hann helped me along.
They give you gloves, socks, and slippers to prevent frostbite, and you can wear your underwear - but nothing containing metal.
As the temperature in my pod started plummeting, I automatically started moving around to stay warm. It was about 30 seconds in when I didn't think I'd last the full three minutes.
Jason said they usually talk to people through this process just to distract them. As I'm trying to ask him questions, my mouth doesn't want to work.
It almost felt like I had icicles on my skin!
After three minutes, I'm out. I felt invigorated.
While my trip in the deep freeze was for show and tell, for people with chronic pain like Amy, cryotherapy is a way to get much-needed relief.
"Over the past two years, my flareups haven't been as much,” she said.
As an alternative to pain medicine, she said it’s a different way of pain management.
“I am so blessed."