After an especially tough gym session, a little muscle soreness is part of the deal. But when your training escalates to the point that you’re having a bromance with good ole DOMS, you may need to seek alternative relief—and, you know, dial your ish back a bit. Check out these extreme recovery measures. If they’re a little too extreme for your style, check out these five less intense recovery techniques instead.
What it is: In cryotherapy, you spend two to three minutes with your body, neck down, enclosed in a chamber that circulates seriously chilled air—between -240° and -270°F, says Mark Murdock, managing partner of CryoUSA. Skip it if you have heart or circulatory issues like high blood pressure, or sensitivity to cold like Reynaud’s Syndrome.
How it aids recovery: When exposed to the severe cold, the body shunts blood from the extremities back into the core to protect the vital organs. “While in cryo, the body continues to vasoconstrict and the blood continues to go through the cardiovascular system, then to the vital organs, then back through the cardio system,” Murdock says. “As long as a client is in the chamber, at those temperatures, the blood continues this short loop.” The magic happens when back in normal room temperature air. “The brain tells the body to release the blood back to the peripheral tissues,” says Murdock. Recovery benefits include improved blood flow, reduced inflammation and pain, increased metabolic rate, and an endorphin rush.
What it costs: $45 to $70 per session.
What it is: For those who like it hot, consider a visit to an infrared sauna. Rather than heating the room as in a traditional sauna, it employs infrared light to penetrate the skin and raise the core body temperature. Sessions last from 20 to 60 minutes, and should be avoided by anyone with heart disease or high blood pressure, seizure or fainting disorders, or metal implants.
How it aids recovery: Prepare to perspire. “The deep penetrating heat of infrared allows the body to sweat out toxins,” says Gabrielle Francis, N.D., author of The Rockstar Remedy. “It also helps to increase circulation of blood and nutrients to the muscles, ligaments, and soft tissues, which enhances healing.” Because of the extreme sweating, it’s essential that you’re well-hydrated before, during, and after sessions, preferably with liquids containing electrolytes such as coconut water or specially formulated sports drinks. “You should have so much water that your urine is light yellow to clear,” Francis says.
What it costs: Around $50 per session.
Peristaltic pulse dynamic compression
What it is: Picture a blood pressure cuff on steroids. Primarily for use on extremities, PPDC employs sleeves that use targeted air pressure to compress and massage the limbs. “The only major contraindication is acute deep vein thrombosis,” says Matt Tanneberg, D.C., a sports chiropractor and owner of Arcadia Health and Wellness Chiropractic in Phoenix, AZ. “Cancer, infection, and diabetes aren’t contraindicated in the eyes of the inventors, however, I would be cautious with those conditions.”
How it aids recovery: The compressed air forces blood and waste fluids back toward the heart and organs where it can be filtered and removed. “The idea behind PPDC is that by using compression to improve the blood flow, it decreases the inflammation in the extremity being treated,” Tanneberg says. “This helps to improve the recovery time.”
What it costs: $20 to $50 per session.
What it is: Shirts and shorts with built-in elasticized bands subtly coax the body into better postural alignment. “The NeuroBand panels target specific muscle groups and connect one to another,” says Bill Schultz, president and founder of Alignmed, the clothing’s manufacturer. “It’s very similar to kinesio taping and much more dynamic.” The extreme part: For optimal benefits, Schultz says you should wear the garments for a minimum of four hours a day. (A number of pro athletes, including Peyton Manning, wears it 24 hours a day, according to Schultz.)
How it aids recovery: These bands target muscle groups to stimulate the underused muscles in the back and elongate the overused ones in the chest. “The body feels best when the joints are in neutral alignment, which is the foundation of physical fitness and physical therapy,” Schultz says. “You’ve got to get back into alignment or you won’t heal correctly or the healing will take longer.” It’s not about compressing or restricting the muscles, but rather encouraging them to move in a healthier and more natural movement pattern.
What it costs: $95 and up.