NBA superstars such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James love it. Undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. swears by it, having sessions before and after his fights. The therapy was even featured on Good Morning America on Wednesday, June 17.
It's cryotherapy, the whole-body exposure to cool, dry air vapors reaching subzero temperatures, to decrease pain and inflammation and facilitate faster body recovery. So, how does it exactly work? Well, Tech Times consulted with U.S. Cryotherapy in Sacramento to get a better understanding.
"We're going to get you much colder much faster to stimulate a really strong circulatory response back throughout the body very quickly," says Matt Winchell, the general manager of U.S. Cryotherapy, which has treated Bryant, as well as renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins. "So, what that's going to do over something like an ice bath is get more inflammation down, more lactic acid down, as well as activate an essential nervous system response, which just helps your body heal more efficiently and function better throughout the day."
After signing a medical waiver stating you're in good health to undergo the treatment, and donning protective gear, you'll enter a two-stage process. The first part consists of stepping into a chamber, covering your body from the neck down for 30 seconds. The next part, stepping into the main chamber, lasts anywhere from two to three minutes at an average of -184 degrees celsius, according to Winchell.
Once out of the main chamber, one's body temperature drops anywhere between 35 to 45 degrees and it takes 10 minutes of cardio to "help speed up the recovery and re-warming process of the new blood flow throughout the body," Winchell says.
This dry, colder temperature helps sustain reduced muscle temperature without compromising the skin or core temperature, the company's web site says, and allows the superficial skin temperature to return to normal while deeper tissue and muscle temperatures remain cold for increased results.
U.S. Cryotherapy also offers spot therapy, which blows the subzero dry air vapors on isolated injuries, whether it's one's lower back, shoulder, ankle or knee. There's a different cryotherapy technology, one that uses liquid nitrogen and is often referrred to as a cryosauna, but Winchell says it's not as effective as the whole body cryotherapy because "you're not in a full-body, enclosed environment" and "you're missing central nervous system activation."
Still, it's interesting that NBA teams like the Phoenix Suns have invested in a latter such chamber, while Bryant opts for the whole-body cryotherapy treatment.
While the "super-icing" treatment is still not covered by a majority of health insurances, U.S. Cryotherapy charges $35 for an initial session, before getting into different membership plans.
Winchell says a common misconception is that the therapy is only for star athletes because actually it's for anyone looking for faster body recovery from pains and injuries. He adds that don't hold your breath if you think this is a fad because it's here to stay.
In other words, chill out for a minute or two ... if you can bear it.