Welcome to Glacial Peak Cryotherapy, the first of its kind in the area and a place that offers unique services that benefit people of all types and ailments. I enlisted the help of my colleagues, Bison Illustrated editor Joe Kerlin, photographer Paul Flessland and sales representative Tank McNamara, to try out the different services offered by this new health spa. And let me tell you, none of us knew what to expect prior to our visit but we definitely left that day feeling invigorated and fascinated by what Glacial Peak Cryotheraphy has to offer. Fargo winters ain’t got nothin’ on us now.
Owner Pam Bradow was living in Colorado Springs, Colo., after an accident, and was having a hard time getting back to work as a dental hygienist. She had been seeing a massage therapist for relief, but wasn’t getting the long-term results she sought. Her massage therapist recommended that Bradow try cryotheraphy treatment, and she said she immediately saw a big difference with her daily energy. Unfortunately, she was unable to get back into her job as a dental hygienist due to a concussion from the accident. She grew up in Fergus Falls, Minn., and wanted to come back to the area to be closer to her family, so she decided to start working toward her cryotherapy practice.
Cryotechnicians At Glacial Peak Cryotherapy
“As a dental hygienist, you learn that there’s a lot of bacteria in your mouth and that’s why we always encourage brushing and flossing, because we want to get oxygen down to where the diseases are,” said Bradow. “Those bugs don’t like oxygen. And I’m thinking, there are a lot of diseases and illnesses out there that don’t love oxygen. So, let’s give it to us systemically and locally. And this (cryotheraphy) is what I found to do that.” Glacial Peak Cryotherapy opened this fall and Bradow runs the business with the help of her manager, daughter, nieces and her pup Tuffy.
“This isn’t just for the young athletes. I want to be able to help the elderly and the aging community as well. We are living longer and are having to deal with more aches and pains and some of us are sick of drugging it up. I want to be able to play with my grandkids. Dealing with pain long term is crazy. It hurts the family and it hurts a person’s social life and their daily activities,” said Bradow.
Although Glacial Peak Cryotheraphy technically is the first place to offer these services in the state, Bradow said that she doesn’t consider her services to be in competition with anyone in town. She wants to enhance the efforts that are already out there and said that she has already had massage therapists, doctors and chiropractors send her clients.
We started our visit by trying out compression therapy, which Bradow says is great for athletes and those going through post-operation recovery. Many professional athletes use this technology, NormaTec’s patented sequential pulse technology, for quicker muscle recovery and a decrease in muscle fatigue and stiffness.
The compression sleeves are available for certain parts of the body, such as legs, shoulders, hips and more. McNamara and Kerlin both used the leg compression sleeves while I used the hip one. Kerlin is a runner and just recently completed his first full marathon, and was interested to see how the therapy would help his irritated hamstrings. He stated that after the therapy, his legs moved better than they had in weeks and he was able to stand up out of the couch faster than he expected.
This therapy combines three distinct massage techniques: pulsing, gradient hold and distal release. The sleeves will inflate and go through cycles of progressively holding, releasing and pulsing over the course of 30 minutes.
For me, I have a hip injury that never healed right years ago and continues to cause me daily pain. I could definitely feel that muscle being targeted during the therapy and, although I felt a little bit of pain in that area immediately following the session, my hip didn’t bother me at all for weeks following. Personally, I would definitely consider this a relieving aid to the chiropractic services that don’t always work for my injury.
Glacial Peak Cryotherapy
“It’s almost like a massage but without all of the hands-on work. It kneads the muscles and joints gently and there are different degrees of intensity. It helps a little bit with your lymphatic system as well,” said Bradow.
At times during the session, it feels as though the sleeves couldn’t squeeze your body any harder. But in a fascinating way, the harder it squeezes you, the better it feels. I could have easily fallen asleep in that chair because I found it relaxing.
“My toes feel like they’re getting a little crunched together, but overall, the tighter it gets, the better,” said McNamara during his session. Afterward, he stated that he could move better and felt more loose.
Kerlin’s description was a little more light-hearted, but accurate nonetheless. “You know at Chipotle when you have so many ingredients in the burrito and they’re about to roll it up, and you give them that look saying, ‘You’re not going to get all that in there because you’ll break the tortilla.’ That’s how my toes feel.”
Whole Body Cryotherapy
Let’s face it, we know that the idea of putting yourself in a freezing cold chamber sounds like something that would only happen in movies. Or maybe to Walt Disney. Or Philip J. Fry, “Futurama” style. But any skeptics should know that this is a safe and monitored process with gratifying health benefits.
Upon entry of the pre-chilled cryosauna (to -170 degrees Fahrenheit), the floor will raise and you’ll take off your robe, leaving you in your underwear, gloves, socks and slippers. Liquid nitrogen is pumped into the machine and you’ll be surrounded by the vapor as it continues to chill the unit throughout the session. For the two to three minutes you’re in the chamber, your skin will be exposed to extreme cold temperatures sometimes reaching as low as -300 degrees.
Top right to bottom right: Kerlin’s session reached around -240 degrees Fahrenheit. Flessland’s session reached closer to -250 degrees Fahrenheit at its coldest. McNamara went first, and his chamber got to -230 degrees Fahrenheit.
“There are some people who can’t tolerate the full three minutes, but I definitely want people in there a minute and a half. With as much skin exposure as you have, we’re tricking and encouraging the body to go into that fight-or-flight mode really fast. While it’s on that mode, you are cleansing your blood through your organs and your core, and you are oxygenating the blood,” said Bradow. “Once you step out, all that inflammation and pain that’s in your body is managed with this enriched blood that goes back out.”
Despite living in North Dakota, it sounds a little harsh to be exposed to that kind of extreme cold, but Bradow continued to explain that having minimal clothing on in the chamber allows more skin receptors to be exposed and it tricks the brain into thinking it might be going into hypothermia. When the blood becomes more enriched throughout the process, nutrients get sent to more affected areas of the body to help cleanse it.
“When that blood cycles back through the body, it can handle any inflammation that’s in the body, whether you’re aware of it or not. After a whole body session, you’ll notice that you sleep better and you won’t be as sore and achy. You’ll have much more energy for daily activities,” said Bradow.
McNamara, Kerlin and Flessland all stripped down to try out the cryosauna for the full three minutes each. Bradow explained that the entire session is monitored and that a clinician is with you in the room the entire time. They keep verbal and visual contact with you and watch for any body language or anxiety that might occur. There is also a magnetic latch on the inside of the chamber so you’re not locked in.
- Note: This service is not available for those who are pregnant, have too high or too low of blood pressure, or suffer from hypertension or allergies to the cold. If you have a heart condition, you must be cleared for exercise from your doctor to undergo this treatment. Individuals must be at least 14 years of age and anyone under the age of 18 must have parental consent. McNamara went first, with his session reaching around -230 degrees. During the three minutes he grew noticeabley antsy and stated, “It feels like I just got out of a hot tub in the middle of January. My knees are getting a little antsy and my calves burn a little. It kind of feels like a freezer and that I might stick to the sides. But it’s incredibly refreshing and I don’t think I’ll fall asleep at the office later.” Afterward, he stated, “My upper body feels fantastic right now. My legs burn a little bit but it’s slowly going away and I already feel the difference.”
Kerlin was noticeably shaking right when his session started, and had a hard time controlling it throughout the three minutes. The temperature during his session got down to -240 degrees, and he described it as being “uncomfortable, but not ice bath uncomfortable. It was like walking to your car on a -30 degree day with extra wind chill.” After, he said that he felt like his body had generated adrenaline after thinking it had to go into survival mode, and got a great energy boost from it.
Flessland remained calm during his entire session despite the temperature creeping closer to -250 degrees. He said, “It was bearable for the three minutes but that’s about the maximum amount of time I could handle. It was slightly uncomfortable at times but definitely tolerable. My calves started to burn near the end. Afterward, I felt incredibly refreshed and putting the dry, warm clothes on felt like being cradled by an angel.”
Cryofacials are delivered in a similar fashion to the cryosauna, but more locally. Liquid nitrogen comes out in vapor and it’s directly exposed to the face with the help of a technician. This technique is also used in another service offered by Glacial Peak Cryotheraphy, where they can deliver local treatment to specific muscles or joints, essentially freezing an area directly to help with pain and recovery.
Bradow and the cryotechnicians explained that a cryofacial can stimulate hair follicle growth, help shrink pores, reduce inflammation and puffiness of the skin, build collagen in the skin to help combat the formation of wrinkles and can even be beneficial for those who suffer from migraines. They recommended waiting three days in between treatments to allow the collagen to rebuild after the reaction to the cold.
For this session, I didn’t have to take my makeup off like I thought I would (which I consider convenient). I did have to remove my jewelry, but I wasn’t able to remove my nose ring so the technician had to be cautious of that area. My face was exposed to vapor that got down to -247 degrees, but it definitely didn’t feel that cold. At the coldest point, my face felt more like it was wet versus freezing and overall the entire 10-minute session was pretty refreshing. The only discomfort I felt was the feeling of having my breath taken away right away (Dementor’s kiss, anyone?) in the beginning when the technician was directing the vapor closer to my nose and mouth. I quickly got used to that and felt rather relaxed for the rest of the session.
Afterward, my ears slightly burned because I suffer from a circulation disease, but my colleagues that also did the facial did not experience that. Later in the day, I was told that my skin was glowing and the refreshing feeling lasted quite a few hours for me.