We welcome guest blogger Harriet Hammond to Balmonds, to talk about her personal experience of Topical Steroid Withdrawal, aka TSW or red skin syndrome. In the second of her blogs for us, she explains the theory and practice of Cryotherapy as a healing strategy for TSW.
When you have a long term or chronic illness and there isn’t much in the way of solutions coming from the medical community or you no longer trust what is on offer, you will no doubt end up searching for all sorts of alternative healing options. Some will be even offered to you by complete (well-meaning) strangers who say “I get dry hands in the winter too, have you tried coconut oil?”…cue eye-roll.
Everyone is different, so treatment isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all thing, but having tried most therapies, creams and supplements through my TSW journey, at 13.5 months and going through another tough flare, I finally got to try cryotherapy and, for me, this has been the biggest game-changer in the whole saga. It’s expensive and not widely-available so I feel very lucky that I could access it, but I do believe it’s the next big thing in the health and wellbeing world and expect new centres to pop up across the country in the next few years.
What is it?
Cold therapy: exposing the body to temperatures of approximately -90 to -120 degrees Celsius for 3-5 minutes, either through liquid nitrogen or an electronically cooled chamber.
Cooling the body to this level releases the hormone norepinephrine into the blood stream, which has a positive effect on pain, inflammation and constriction of blood vessels (over-dilation of these vessels is what causes the red skin in TSW), along with a cognitive and energy boost. White blood cell and mitochondria cell production increases through the boost to the immune system and energy increase, which encourages healing internally and also at skin level.
Imagine walking into a freezer that’s about four times colder than your home freezer and is missing the fish fingers and soft scoop. Then imagine you’re in there in your underwear. Your experience will vary depending on where you go and whether you’re in a nitrogen tank or electrically cooled chamber.
My experience is in an electric chamber where I spend 4-6 minutes shivering, jiggling and singing like I’m in a karaoke booth in Antarctica, before warming up and then going back in for a second freeze.
When I arrived at the cryotherapy clinic I couldn’t walk properly, I was bent over from the ripped, tight skin and I was in a pretty low place. When I left after my first 5 day stint, I could walk better, stand straighter and had a new found hope. Now, after 12 weeks of cryotherapy (2-5 times most weeks) I am in the best place I have been in 16 months of my TSW journey. Cryotherapy helps your skin to heal and gives you the energy to fight this condition physically and mentally. For me, the biggest thing it’s given me is a real, tangible hope and I’m able to see the light at the end of this dark, long tunnel.
Harriet with Louise King (@louigi.skin)
Whatever method you take during your Topical Steroid Withdrawal journey, the most important thing is you’ve stopped using the steroid creams. Do what’s right for you and you will heal – believe that beauty can bloom out of the brokenness.
Cryotherapy is not yet widely available, but can be accessed at various places across the UK. Check with your local health clubs, beauty salons, sports centres and department stores for availability.
Harriet Hammond charts her TSW journey at https://www.instagram.com/tswharriet
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
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