Cryotherapy: The New Ice Bath

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Posted by Staci Lehman on July 25, 2018, noon

It used to be there was little you could do about soreness following a tough workout or sports injury – apply ice or heat and wait for it to heal. Today there is a more proactive approach. Cryotherapy is the use of extremely low temperatures to reduce many health complaints.

“We like your body temperature to get below 60 degrees,” said Lacy Gannon who, with her husband Pat Gannon, owns Spokane Cryo in Spokane Valley. “That’s when you start to feel the benefits.”

Cryotherapy is said to treat everything from arthritis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and general inflammation to depression and lack of energy. And while that kind of cold sounds uncomfortable, people who have tried it say it’s not.

Woman in cryotherapy tank

“It was never painful, I could still talk through it,” said Arianna Johnson, who has tired cryotherapy several times. “I was actually warm after. My body warmed up really fast.”

In cryotherapy, clients get undressed (except for gloves and socks to protect extremities and underwear for men) and into a structure that resembles a big tank with an open top.

“I like to tell people it’s kind of like a stand up tanning bed,” said Gannon.

Except this device is cold instead of hot. It uses dry nitrogen to reach two hundred degrees below zero. Each session lasts around three minutes and users say they feel the benefits immediately.

“You can exercise ten or 15 minutes afterward and I’ve had clients who are athletes say they’ve have the best workout they’ve ever had,” said Brayson Buckner, owner of 509 Cryo.

Buckner purchased his cryo spa after using it himself and becoming a believer.

“I suffer from an autoimmune condition that causes joint pain,” he said. “When you see how bad the opioid crisis is, if there’s an alternative to that, I think we should try it.”

Arianna Johnson agrees. Along with her husband, chiropractor Dr. Ryan Johnson, DC MS CCSP, they own Spokane Sport and Spine and have sent many people to their cryotherapy provider, Spokane Nutrishop and Cryotherapy.

“I think an ounce of prevention is so worth doing,” said Johnson. “Why not use something that is known for reducing inflammation rather than having surgery if you can?”

Spokane Nutrishop and Cryotherapy has an unusual cryo sauna in that it first heats the body up before cooling it down.

“I’ve tried a few sessions now and love it. I’ve referred a lot of people,” said Johnson. “My mom tried it and she’s older and has fibromyalgia and loved it.”

Pat and Lacy Gannon opened Spokane Cryo because they also loved it. Pat is an Ironman competitor and Lacy instructs fitness classes, so both have frequent muscle aches.

“You kind of get an adrenaline rush,” said Gannon. “Your body goes into fight or flight mode to warm itself back up.”

Gannon says this leaves her feeling refreshed and revitalized, and with less pain.

“I’ve got one client with rheumatoid arthritis,” said Buckner of 509 Cryo. “He started off once a week, then increased it to a couple times a week. Then he went to see his doctor and she said, ‘What are you doing? We’re going to start tracking this because you’re showing improvement.’”

But is it a placebo effect or does cryotherapy really work? While cryotherapy has been considered a sanctioned medical treatment in Europe for decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says there is no evidence it effectively treats or improves any diseases or conditions. As for potential risks, FDA’s website says cryotherapy could potentially cause frostbite, burns and asphyxiation from nitrogen vapors. 

Despite the warning, cryotherapy seems to be growing in popularity in the U.S. across demographics.

Buckner says his clientele is everybody. “I’ve got old people with joint pain and young people with joint pain from exercising too hard.”

Cryotherapy costs anywhere from $20 to $45 per session with package rates available.