The idea of cold therapy is not new. Athletes have been using ice baths for decades to reduce swelling, inflammation and soreness. Cryotherapy just speeds up the process by exposing your body to a chilly negative 250 degrees.
Reflections magazine: Why did you open Icehouse Cryotherapy?
Mark Hanson: So [Gail] played professional tennis on the circuit until about three years ago. Two years ago, we had a little boy. While she was pregnant, we were watching the U.S. Open, and some of the people she had beaten in the past were in the quarterfinals. She was like, ‘I want to start playing again.’ So we decided in February of that year that she’d start training again. We got a great fitness trainer, and he’s really tough physically. She was waking up in the morning barely able to walk, so I talked to a good friend of mine who is a recovery specialist. He said, ‘Have you tried cryotherapy?’ I had no idea what it was at the time, so I Googled it and there was one in Snohomish. We took a drive and both tried it. She loved it.
Gail Hanson: At the time, I was dealing with general soreness and inflammation, the type of stiffness where you can’t function in the morning. And in the past, I had struggled with a lot of back pain, sciatica pain, and I found the cryotherapy helped me with both issues. I fell in love with it right away.
Mark: So we started traveling 45 minutes twice a week. Then I thought, We’ve always had some extra space. So the three of us opened Icehouse Cryotherapy, which is the third one in Washington, the first open on the Eastside.
Reflections: And why did you jump on board?
Filipp Pogostkin: I work and coach tennis with them. I’d never heard about it, but I’ve been through my fair share of injuries when I played [tennis] for Boise State. Two knee surgeries, with every sort of recovery method you can think of—Cortisone shots, prp [platelet-rich plasma] shots. They’d work for a bit and then stop working. They told me about cryotherapy and their thoughts, so I went and tried it and called them back immediately.
Reflections: Can you feel the effects after just one session?
Gail: The amazing thing about cryotherapy is you feel the effects of it right away. But for lasting effects, you have to do it pretty often, twice a week or so. It’s like anything, you have to keep it up.
Filipp: I was sold so quickly because I’ve been through so many injuries and recoveries. As soon as I did it, I understood how it worked and how it fights inflammation. I’ve had the experience of ice baths, and this is just ice baths on steroids.
Reflections: Cold therapy is not a new concept; cryotherapy just takes it to an extreme level. Can you explain why that jump is so important?
Mark: For me, it’s all about the time. I’ve taken ice baths after playing tournaments, and the feeling of an ice bath is something I really don’t like. This is such a short amount of time. It’s much better than sitting in a bath for 20, 30 minutes.
Gail: Cryotherapy has such a great effect because the extreme temperature actually constricts your blood vessels to a degree where there is restricted blood flow to certain areas. Once you step out it flushes fresh blood through the extremities. It basically filters blood through and helps your body heal itself. It’s not magical; it’ll never heal a broken ankle, but it will promote your body to do the healing.
Filipp: One of the great things about it is the practicality. This is opening up ice baths to the average person. Everybody does all these great activities—CrossFit, tennis, soccer, running—they do these activities, but don’t understand how damaging these activities are to your body. Professional athletes go through it all the time. They get done with a workout, then stretching, ice baths, all this stuff to make sure they can do that same thing the next day. But the average person doesn’t do that. It’s just not practical, so they’ll go through their activity and then be sore for the next three to four days. But with cryotherapy, the average person has the option to go in, recover and do the same activity the next day.
Reflections: Do any of you have a personal story of the impact it’s made?
Gail: With my first son, I gained almost 80 pounds. When I started training again, I lost it in six months, just to show you how hard I was pushing myself training. I was able to push my body further than ever before without having to suffer the consequences of soreness and muscle pain, injuries, fatigue. It’s been extremely beneficial for me.
Reflections: Speaking of weight loss, cryotherapy is sometimes touted as a treatment that can assist with it. Is that accurate?
Gail: We don’t recommend it for weight loss specifically. In certain studies it has been shown that you can burn up to 800 calories the day of the treatment because your body is essentially going into hypothermia, so it does everything it can to heat back up. But everybody is different, so we’re not trying to sell it as a weight loss tool. We just want people to feel good.
Reflections: Why do you think cryotherapy is having a moment in the spotlight?
Mark: A lot of professional athletes have been using it for even longer than they’ve been saying. I know the Dallas Mavericks have about 10 of these. They are using it before and after practices, and a lot of boxers and football players use it. So when you start seeing people of the highest level utilizing things like this you have to look at it seriously.
Reflections: How would you describe the sensations during and after the treatment?
Mark: The really interesting thing is everyone has a different response. I don’t think anyone’s come in and said they don’t feel different at all. For me, I feel a huge adrenaline rush like I’ve had five coffees. A lot of people lately say it feels like they’ve had a massage—that their muscles feel relaxed. We have a lady suffering from migraines, or tension headaches, and she swears by it. It’s not the cure-all but it does a lot of good things.
Filipp: Again, it pumps blood through your body, so it’s a natural healing process for inflammation and anything related to circulation. And everyone will feel something different because everybody is hurting somewhere in a different way.
Mark: We’ve all had different reactions while being in the machine. When I’m in it I have almost an asthmatic reaction, like when I dive into a cold swimming pool. I feel a little bit like that for the first 30 seconds, and then I’m fine. We had defensive line coach Travis Jones in, and he just stood there, looking at me. And I said, ‘You can move around if you want to warm up a little.’ And he said, ‘It’s colder in Green Bay, this is nothing.’
Reflections: Is there anyone who absolutely should not try this?
Gail: Anyone with any kind of heart issues because it deals with circulation and constriction of the blood vessels. So anyone with heart palpitations, high blood pressure. Also pregnant women. But otherwise, there are no limitations.
Reflections: Any last thoughts on cryotherapy?
Filipp: Just a reminder that it increases the overall quality of life. I think people forget what it’s like to be without inflammation. Even if you’re just sitting at a desk in one position all day long, it bothers the lower back. Or older people struggling with carpal tunnel or arthritis. It reminds people what it’s like to be your normal self. Too many people attach inflammation to workouts. But there are all types of inflammation that can be helped.