While many people will kick off the new year with resolutions to eat better and exercise more, a growing number of folks will be partaking in more unconventional ways to improve their health and wellness: complementary and alternative medicine (“complementary” meaning the approach is used together with conventional medicine, and “alternative” meaning it is used in place of conventional medicine).
According to the most recent data from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, more than 30% of adults and about 12% of children use health care approaches that are not typically part of conventional medical care or that may have origins outside of usual Western practice.
Regardless of how you may choose to integrate these practices, just know that this area offers a plethora of ways to heat, hydrate, hear, float, freeze, and squeeze your way to feeling great. And we wanted to do more than just give you the basic info on these treatments; we wanted to tell you what they’re really like. To this end, Social Media Manager Arlem Mora and I tried six different therapies so we could give you the inside scoop.
IV Hydration Therapy
What has been popular with celebrities as a cure for exhaustion, dehydration, jet lag, or the dreaded hangover, IV hydration therapy is now a blossoming trend right here in Wake County. At Hydrate Medical, a lifestyle IV hydration company with locations in Raleigh and Cary, patients can boost their energy and speed up recovery in a spa-like environment where clients can sit back, relax, and unwind.
Focusing on self-health and wellness, IV hydration treats ailments including illnesses, chronic pain, and PTSD. Some patients even receive the therapy to treat nausea during pregnancy or the side effects of chemo or radiation treatments. One of their most popular drips, the Myers Cocktail, is used to treat conditions from chronic fatigue to migraines. This drip includes Super B, vitamin C, B12, and other vitamins. Another best-selling drip is the Hydrate Super Immune Boost, which is packed with vitamin C and zinc.
These drips have become so popular that monthly sales and the number of drips delivered in the last year have tripled. Hydrate Medical now provides more than 3,000 IV drips a month across their seven clinic locations.
“Over the last year, we have seen people continue to develop interest in staying healthy and well,” says Hydrate Medical co-owner Dr. Jonathan Leake. “Because of our continued focus on health and wellness for our clients, this has allowed for our rapid growth. People understand now more than ever that boosting their immune system and staying hydrated are keys to overall wellness.”
Erica tried it and …
After relaxing into a lounge chair, a nurse checked my blood pressure and heart rate, then proceeded with my treatment. Like many people, I am not a fan of needles. But after a quick prick, everything was all set up, and I just read a book and relaxed. I had the Super Immune Boost with an added medication called glutathione, which is a master detoxifier. Almost immediately, there was a light taste of vitamins in the back of my throat. It’s not bad, but if it bothers you, just ask for a coconut water.
After about 40 minutes, my body had absorbed all the fluids and the IV was removed. A compression bandage remained on my arm for about an hour after I left to reduce the chance of bruising. The nurses said the effects of the extra energy can last up to three to four weeks. The next day, I woke up and felt so good and refreshed, my skin looked extra hydrated, and I had more energy than I am used to … and those results lasted into the following weeks.
Reported to assist in the treatment of PTSD, eating disorders, and high blood pressure, as well as helping to provide relief from pain, stress, and anxiety, float therapy places you inside a floatation tank (also known as an isolation tank or sensory deprivation tank), which is a zero-gravity environment designed to help your mind and body relax, recover, and reset.
Kelli Wolf, who owns The Float Spa Holly Springs with her husband, Joey, passed on her first chance to try a float therapy session when on a trip to western NC. “I thought it was weird. I’m not doing that,” Wolf recalls saying, after Joey suggested they try it.
But after Joey’s first-ever float session, Kelli noticed an immediate change. “I could see the calmness in his face and body. I had instant regret,” she said.
At that time, the only float spa in the state was in Asheville, so Wolf had to wait three years before the opportunity came around to experience a float for herself. “It took a long time to settle in, but I could not believe how I felt when I got out,” she said. “I could not believe something so simple could make me feel so great.”
After her experience, Wolf wanted to create a place locally where people take time out for self-care. “I want to help people the way I was helped,” she said.
At The Float Spa, sessions can be 30, 60, or 90 minutes. Each float pool has a private room with a shower, dressing area, and individually controlled music and lights. “It’s just water and salt — 1,000 pounds of medical-grade Epsom salt — in each tank,” said Wolf.
Arlem tried it and …
Life is busy right now. I can’t slow down. Plus, the morning of my appointment, I had an intense boxing session. I walked into the float session feeling sore. At first, all I could think about was how I was going to relax. It was my first time, and I was very excited. I did a couple of deep breathing exercises; I started letting my body feel the water. I let go of anxiousness, and I decided to turn off the light. I closed my eyes and fell asleep!
Immediately after exiting the float tank, I felt light and had a clear mind. Every muscle in my body felt relaxed. I’ve never felt like this, not even with massages. When I went to sleep that day, I fell asleep very fast (for me, falling asleep fast is difficult). The next day, when I woke, I felt stress free and energetic, and had no more stiff muscles. I am already checking The Float Spa Holly Springs packages. I can’t wait to go back!
Existing since the 1970s, whole-body cryotherapy was originally created for rheumatoid arthritis, explained Garrett White, owner of CryoNC, a boutique wellness center in Raleigh’s McNeill Pointe. “What they found is that a lot of the athletic communities started to gravitate toward it when they realized the workout recovery factor and benefit from it,” he said. “It’s like a modern ice bath without any of the downsides.”
In fact, with just three minutes of cryotherapy, your body is surrounded by sub-zero temperatures, helping the body in numerous ways. “With an ice bath, it’s not recommended you do it more than once every 36 hours because it can slow muscle growth. That’s the penetrating nature of water that cold,” said White. “With cryotherapy, it’s just cold air around you, so you don’t have any of the muscle growth issues. In three minutes, you’re triggering your flight or flight response. Blood comes to your core to protect vital organs because your brain thinks you’re in a hypothermic environment. And when it does that, it’s pulling inflammation away from the joints. It’s pulling the blood flow up so it gets to flush that out at a higher rate. Think of an oil change for your body, and now you have this enriched oxygenated blood flow, and with that, you get an epinephrine release. So your dopamine levels go up, and you get out feeling physically or mentally better in a way that’s very, very low impact to your day.”
Just change into a robe (wearing underwear is optional and no jewelry below the neck), step into the chamber, and then remove the robe. Temperatures will start off at -40 degrees and then fall to about -125 at an ideal level one setting. “It can get as cold as -195. That’s where we max out,” said White. “We never get colder than that. I would say only a small handful of people really even needed to get that cold at all. You get all the benefits at that lower -125 range.”
Arlem tried it and …
Most people may feel frightened to go inside a chamber working at sub-zero temperatures; this was not my case because I take cold baths from time to time, and I know the mind-body benefits of cold therapy. So for me, the health perks of cryotherapy outweigh the potential three minutes of discomfort of extreme cold.
Before walking into the chamber, the owner operating the machine gave me helpful tips for handling the cold. Once inside, the cold took my breath away, but after a few seconds, I did some small movements and my breath came back. It got down to -130. I felt cold the first day after the therapy, so I went straight home and took a long, cozy nap! After two days passed, I felt very energetic and my joints felt better. I am very excited to go back.
Unlike a traditional sauna, which is a hot box that gets up to 180 or 190 degrees, an infrared sauna maxes out around 140 or 150 degrees. “It’s a much more comfortable environment, but the infrared wavelengths are going to penetrate and heat up your core temperature instead of heating the room,” said White. “That’s where the benefit comes. It’s detoxing you at a cellular level. Our medium wavelengths are detoxing the muscles and joints and giving you relief there. And then our short infrared wavelengths, that’s a skin detox.”
White said many people use infrared therapy to give a healthy glow to their skin and come in two to three times a week to maintain it. “The more you get it, the longer the effects last,” said White. Sessions are 30 or 50 minutes, and people often add them after a cryotherapy session. “It’s a very, very relaxing environment. It’s not overly hot to make it so uncomfortable,” said White. “You can sit in a comfortable environment and get all of the benefits.”
Erica tried it and …
I went straight into the infrared sauna after my cryotherapy session. After cryo, you warm up very quickly, so I went from the coldest I’ve ever been (-130 degrees) to breaking a slight sweat within a matter of minutes. The sauna is unlike a traditional dry sauna in that it isn’t as hot and is much more tolerable. That way, you can stay in longer. The sauna is set up for one person at a time, and you can choose different colors of light to help you relax, like red, blue, green, and purple. There’s even a screen where you can watch Netflix! After doing the cryo and infrared sauna back to back, I felt great … relaxed, yet energized! I would definitely do this again!
Essentially a way to recreate a deep tissue massage, compression therapy stimulates the circulatory and lymphatic systems, plus releases lactic acid from the muscles to drain your body’s toxins. “We call these fresh legs,” said White. “A lot of runners love them. We have leg attachments, hip attachments, which are good for your lower back and hips, and arm attachments. It’s very low impact. It’s just air. It’s not hot or cold. You just sit back, get squeezed out, and you get out feeling loosey-goosey like you’re ready to go dancing.”
White said clients outside of the athletic community also use compression therapy to help with restless leg syndrome and deep vein thrombosis. “This is a nice refresher if someone is working from home or at a desk for a long period of time just to get the blood flowing again. Also, for people with diabetes who have poor circulation. You can do it for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or up to an hour,” said White.
Arlem tried it and …
When the owner started to set up the boots and sleeves on me, I felt like I was getting ready to board a spaceship. The suit felt very comfortable. Within a few seconds, the boots and sleeves began to fizzle slightly as they inflated and worked up and down in my legs and arms. After a few seconds of squeezing in my legs and arms, the equipment began to deflate, flattening completely before the fizzle started up again. While sitting and feeling the relaxing movement of the boots and sleeves, I almost fell asleep.
During my session, the whole experience felt more like I was wearing extra tight spandex and getting a DEEP massage at the same time. When the session completed, my muscles didn’t feel different right away; I did feel incredibly relaxed and light. My arms felt much better after a couple of days.
If you’re seeking treatment for stress, anxiety, sleep, or physical ailments, you might want to give sound therapy a try, specifically a sound bath. Offered by Marnie Blum, owner of Peace in the Forest in Wake Forest, “The sound bath is an experience of allowing the frequencies, which are in alignment with how our bodies need to be. By listening, it shifts the blocks that are in us — and that’s emotional, physical, mental,” she said. “And so by laying down and listening to the sounds, they realign the energies and create healing.”
Over the course of an hourlong session, participants lay comfortably on yoga mats and are also supplied with head pillows, eye pillows, and blankets. At the beginning, Melissa Mensing, Blum’s partner in musical collaboration, plays a crystal pyramid over everyone’s third eye. “The purpose for this is to allow the thinking mind to recede and the intuitive mind to come forward,” said Blum. “It is also helpful for shifting out of the 3D space and into a more multidimensional space, which allows for a more expansive experience. I also encourage people to set an intention, letting go of whatever they want to let go of, bringing in whatever they want to bring in.”
During the session, you’ll hear sounds created from a wide range of instruments with different frequencies, including seven chakra crystal singing bowls, a large bronze Jupiter Bowl, which was hand-forged in fire in Nepal (there are only 204 on the planet), Koshi chimes, a 528 Hz pipe, wind percussion chimes, a crystal pyramid, a gong, Tibetan tingsha cymbals, and a rain disc made in Ukraine.
“The harmonic notes at varying frequencies and vibrations wash over your body, calming your nervous system and restoring emotional balance,” said Blum. “Music, sound, and vibration have been used for its therapeutic healing effects for thousands of years. Studies have proven that sound therapy can lower blood pressure, decrease pulse rate, and assist in restoring the parasympathetic nervous system.”
Sound baths are offered the third Saturday and Sunday of each month at 7 p.m. and 10 a.m., respectively.
Erica tried it and …
Let me begin by saying that I was very excited about participating in a sound bath! After completely turning off my cellphone and storing it away, I selected one of 12 mats (this was a full class) and got comfortable. I had come in from having a busy day, and I was a little stressed out, so I set my intention to relieve any anxiety. During the session, I found myself drawn to some frequencies and vibrations more than others. I especially enjoyed the deeper sounds. I even experienced some enjoyable visuals.
When the class was over, we slowly moved our bodies to wake them back up. When I removed my eye pillow, I was astonished that nearly an hour and a half had gone by! On the way home, I started to feel some pulsing in the area of my third eye; it wasn’t a headache, just a feeling like that area had a workout. I reached out to Marnie afterward, and she said sensations in the third eye generally signify an opening and expansion in that area including intuition, inner knowing, and clairvoyant gifts. I am definitely going to explore this further!
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