I'm cold, and I'm naked, aside from my unmentionables and some thick socks, slippers, and heavy, oversized gloves. Yet, despite the -215 degree temperature and the swirling white smoke of liquid nitrogen inside this cryotherapy chamber, I'm feeling sort of invigorated.
I'm testing out the new East Memphis cryotherapy sauna, Flow Cryotherapy. It opened to the public on Monday, and it's the first of its kind in Memphis. Cryotherapy is supposed to help with everything from chronic inflammation and joint pain to insomnia and psoriasis. I'm hoping it helps ease the runner's knee pain I've been struggling with for months.
According to one of Flow Cryotherapy's co-owners, Bill Ganus, I might get a little natural high. That must be the invigorating feeling I've got going on.
"You'll get this amped-up feeling that comes from the adrenaline, endorphins, and super-oxygenated blood that's being filtered and oxygenated in your core. It's a great feeling. That effect is fairly short-term, about two to four hours depending on the person," says Ganus, who opened the business with partners Taylor Berger, Jeff Seidman, and Jake Lawhead.
And there's another bonus. Ganus says the cryotherapy session burns between 300 and 400 calories in the three-minute treatment, but some sources online claim cryotherapy can burn up to 800 calories per session. Supposedly, the calorie burn occurs afterward, as your body tries to regain its normal temperature.
"You can go from here to Muddy's, and it will be calorie neutral," Ganus jokes.
While it sounds a little like new-age, hocus-pocus, cryotherapy has some serious believers. Several Memphis Grizzlies are known to use cryo treatments before and after games. It's also used at the Olympic rehabilitation center in Spala, Poland.
Since it's supposed to help with joint pain and inflammation, it's ideal for athletes looking to boost performance and recover quickly from injuries. And since it only takes three minutes, it's much quicker and less painful than the old 30-minute ice-bath treatment.
"It has benefits that range from athletes being able to perform harder or longer or more often to elderly people with joint pain who want relief from the inflammation to people who want faster skin regeneration," Ganus says. "There are a lot of people who do this purely for cosmetic reasons. It helps you regenerate collagen faster, and your skin gets stronger and tighter."
Here's how it works: You undress and change into Flow Cryotherapy's robe, socks, and slippers. For women underwear is optional, but men are advised to leave their tighty-whities on.
"Dudes should wear underwear because you want to keep everything close to your body," Ganus explains.
You enter the chamber and ditch the robe over the side. An attendant hands you gloves, and then the platform is raised so that only your head sticks out above the top. The machine whirs and creates white nitrogen smoke that looks like something from a sci-fi movie. Inside, the temperature cools down to -215 degrees. The session only lasts for three minutes.
Flow Cryotherapy welcomes one-time users, and they sell monthly memberships that allow users to frequent the spa as often as they want. But Ganus says even loyal customers are limited to using the treatment twice daily.
"That frequency is not recommended for long-term use, but if you have something, [like a race], you're trying to get ready for or recover from, you might want to get in the unit as often as you can," Ganus said. "If you just finished an Iron Man [triathalon] and you need to recover quickly because you've got a marathon coming up, you'd want to come often."
The first session at Flow Cryotherapy costs $20, and additional, individual sessions are $49. An unlimited monthly membership ranges from $199 to $239, depending on whether or not you sign a contract.
As for me, well, a week later, I am still having knee issues. But the pain in my knee did subside for several hours after the treatment, and Ganus tells me multiple treatments are needed to help with chronic pain.
Flow Cryotherapy (flowcryo.com) is located at 5101 Sanderlin, Suite 106.