Light Blue Clinic brings cryotherapy chamber to Cambridge
In a city of innovation and science, there is a newcomer to the Cambridge block this month.
Tucked away on the Camboro Business Park in Girton, a multidisciplinary site has been created by the Light Blue Clinic.
It will feature osteopathy, physiotherapy and strength and conditioning services, but it is the centrepiece that will bring a different dynamic for those dealing with sporting injuries.
“We’re opening a new clinic which will have a whole body cryo-chamber in it,” says co-owner Gosia Bieniek, “We will essentially put people into extreme cold starting with a short exposure to -60 celsius and then the temperature will go down to about -120 celsius.
“Whole body cryotherapy is a therapy that we use for athletes. We use it to speed up recovery, to minimise fatigue, to minimise stress-induced exercise symptoms and also to improve recovery time from chronic and acute injuries.
“These would be the main things we would be targetting with the therapy.”
There is not believed to be another such whole-body cryo-chamber in Cambridge, and perhaps in the East Region, certainly not one that would be available for public use.
It is a form of treatment that has been growing in popularity for elite sports teams, and was used, famously, by Leicester City in their Premier League title-winning season in 2016.
Milosz Wrobel, the co-owner of the Light Blue Clinic, had grown up with the practice in Poland, and at a UK Strength & Conditioning Association conference in 2012 heard how the Welsh rugby union team had used it on their way to reaching the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final.
“For us, it was rather unusual because we realised that it is a new technology that had not been used in the UK and we were quite surprised by that because both of us grew up knowing there was cryotherapy back home,” he explains.
“From then on, the next time I heard about it was when Leicester City won the Premier League.
“They had their whole body cryo-chamber installed in the summer before the season kicked off, and since then 70 per cent of Premier League clubs installed the same technology and chamber to enhance recovery for players.”
That proved the inspiration for what is now to arrive in Cambridge.
Both Bieniek and Wrobel come from a rowing background, and Wrobel is an osteopath and strength and conditioning coach, while Bieniek is a strength and conditioning coach and health adviser.
“We’ve been identifying gaps and thinking what we can do to expand in terms of the clinic and how else we could help in terms of recovery of our athletes,” explains Bieniek.
“We came up with the idea of the cryo-chamber.”
Wrobel says: “It started back in 2012, and I think during that first lockdown when you think about other ideas, you start reading more.
“One way or the other, both of us come from a high performance background so we know there is a benefit to the sporting population but also we would like to open it to the public as well.”
While there is something called a cryo-sauna, the cryo-chamber immerses the whole body – the sauna leaves the head out – and has a set temperature, giving the full benefit to the whole body.
It is a custom-built chamber which can accommodate four people at the same time.
The liquid nitrogen, which is stored in a 2,000-litre vessel some distance away from the chamber and transported through specialist pipes, is mixed with oxygen to create a cold and frosty experience.
The optimum temperature for most people is -120 celsius, and for 159 seconds exactly, having been through a pre-chamber at -60 for 30 seconds.
But how does it benefit healing? It is all to do with blood flow and circulation.
Vasoconstriction is when the blood vessels narrow and the cryo-chamber seeks to achieve the response where the blood vessels vasoconstrict so the blood flow goes back to the heart.
It means that post-chamber, the blood flow from the heart distributes nutrients and oxygen back to the body quicker, allocating it to damaged muscle, through a fight-and-flight response; that is the therapy in action.
In many senses, it works in a similar way to putting ice on an injury that was inflamed in order to reduce swelling and improve circulation.
“Post-treatment, patients will recover significantly faster from an acute or chronic injury, a whole body cryotherapy also assists with reducing persistent fatigue and inflammation in athletes,” says Bieniek.
“Cryotherapy treament can be scheduled according to a tailored periodized training programme, specifically to improve recovery.
“It’s a safe therapy as it’s controlled so the humidity is right and the temperature is right.
“When a patient comes in, we ask them to fill out a pre-screening medical questionnaire, take their blood pressure and check body composition. We focus on goal setting and further discuss the procedure.”
Bieniek and Wrobel will be working with physiotherapist Cris Kellett at the new clinic in order to bring the whole sports science approach under one roof.
Along with the cryo-chamber, the venue will have a consultation room, two treatment rooms and a gym.
“It is what we’re trying to create here so we have that one, two, three-step approach, so if someone comes with an injury we treat, but we teach them how to move, make them stronger, prepare them for whatever sport or just general life so they don’t have to come back to see us too often,” says Bieniek.
Wrobel adds: “The whole idea and concept we’ve always had since we’ve been operating is that when a patient comes in, one thing is the diagnostics and making sure the patient has the right diagnosis and you go through the recovery period.
“But equally because our original background is strength and conditioning, for us it is important that the process doesn’t finish there when the pain stops and what you would call your rehab stops.
“In essence, the tissue that got damaged will be vulnerable for the rest of that patient’s life. What we can do is utilise those skills we’ve got to strengthen that tissue in order to prevent a recurrence of the injury.”
The cryogenic therapy technique originated in Japan 40 years ago and has since been adapted in Eastern Europe, and it has gone on to become popular in high performance set-ups.
But the aim is that the facility will not just be for elite teams.
Wrobel adds: “The predominant clientele will be the sports teams but where possible we will open it to the public.”
For more information, visit lightblue.clinic.