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Hot or Cold?
The benefits of each extreme temperature, plus the rise of cryotherapy


April 2017

From hot stone massages to freezing cold showers, spas and salons have long used temperature for various treatments. But whether you are sweating away in the steam room or shivering in an ice bath, what are the benefits of hot and cold on the body?

According to Garrett Mersberger, director, Kohler Waters Spas & Development,

heat drives blood to the organs and the extremities — which increases circulation and muscle stimulation — and provides energy to the body because it increases the heart rate. “For example, if you take a hot shower, your skin typically turns pink or red — that is because the blood is all rising and flowing,” he adds.

Elizabeth Walsh-Zimmermann, director of The Pfister Hotel’s WELL Spa + Salon, says the spa uses heat in nearly all of its treatments. “A great example is our Hammam steam shower,” she notes. “It reaches 212 degrees, warming your body from the inside out, which relaxes your muscles and opens your pores, allowing the body to release toxins.”

“We use heat during facial treatments to increase exfoliation and because it means better absorption during facial treatments and body treatments,” says Tami Gemmell, owner of Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield. “In our stone message, heat promotes relaxation, reduces stress, allows the muscles to be more pliable, and helps expand the blood vessels and (therefore) helps blood flow in the body. The hot stones relieve chronic pain, reduce stress, and promote deep relaxation.”

On the flip side, Mersberger says cold has the opposite effect. “Cold drives the blood away from the area, and that forces it to heat up on its own. A great example of this is someone with a fever or injury. ... Without a heat source, the body is forced to heat back up on its own.” And now, a new technique — dubbed cryotherapy — takes cold to the next level, with clients paying good money to experience a bracing chill.

Cryotherapy comes from the Greek word “cryo” — meaning cold. Doctors have been using cryotherapy for years, especially to treat pain. The technique involves the use of a probe that is inserted into the tissue next to the affected nerve. The temperature of the probe drops until it freezes the nerve and the irritation is relieved. Cryotherapy is also used by dermatologists to treat certain skin abnormalities and some cancers, as well as to relieve the pain of pinched nerves.

Today cryotherapy is used at the spa in the form of a cryosauna, a device that lowers the skin’s surface temperature by up to 50 degrees in a three-minute session. These subzero temperatures are said to relieve chronic pain, decrease inflammation by stimulating the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response, speed recovery time, and even slow the effects of aging on the skin.

In Fox Point, Cryovive has been offering the treatment to its clients for the last six months. Co-owner and former Milwaukee Admirals player Yves Preston says that lowering the temperature of the outer layer of skin makes the capillaries and blood vessels undergo vasoconstriction, immediately followed by vasodilation. “This causes the body to release toxins and feel-good endorphins,” he explains. “The skin’s exposure to extreme cold also causes the body to increase its metabolic rate, burning up to 800 calories.”

Preston says additional benefits include pain relief from chronic medical conditions, clearing of some skin conditions, reduction of the appearance of cellulite, tighter and more youthful-looking skin, and even stronger hair and nails. “Come in and try it. You will be in and out in 10 minutes, and you’ll feel great,” he adds. Apart from the whole-body experience, Cryovive also offers localized treatments for specific pain.

Mersberger says that it is important to use both hot and cold in any treatment. “Contrast between temperatures is what is most beneficial for the body,” he continues. “This is why we believe so strongly in hydrotherapy. When you combine extreme hot and cold contrast, this forces the blood to increase its oxygen levels, which in turn increases your metabolism and helps with digestion. Think about when you sprain an ankle — you typically ice for 20 minutes to drive the blood away, and then soak in hot water with mineral salts to get the blood flowing again. The combination of both hot and cold treatments is key.”


This story ran in the April 2017 issue of: