Cryotherapy chamber segments have been a staple of daytime talk shows ever since their inception. I know this firsthand—we put my friend Ricki Lake in a chamber when I was a producer on her talk show. First, the host explained to the audience how suddenly lowering one’s body temperature can promote weight loss, slow down the aging process and even heal wounds deep inside the body. Then, live on-air, she stepped into an upright pod which had been cooled to -240 degrees Fahrenheit, shrieked and shivered in the name of self-improvement and emerged a couple of minutes later gushing about how high she felt.

Cryotherapy treatment was developed in the 1970s by a Japanese doctor looking to treat patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.  The deep freeze soon moved from hospital settings to wellness ones, as those who tried it found it helped ease regular muscle aches and fatigue, temporarily tightened skin and even seemed to help with weight loss.

Even though it’s widely used by athletes to promote muscle recovery, the mainstream medical establishment has refused to get behind cryotherapy because studies simply don’t support its effectiveness.  For instance, a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that regular ice packs worked as well as whole-body cryotherapy in reducing inflammation.

Until this week, cryotherapy’s critics could simply call it ineffective. Now they have some more ammunition: A young woman working at a cryotherapy studio in Henderson, Nevada was found deceased in a treatment chamber. Although the causes are still unknown, the incident has shone a much-needed spotlight on the safety of such practices as cryotherapy—as well as of the importance of self-education when it comes to procedures that are not approved by the FDA.

If you’ve ever tried cryotherapy, what was your experience? Do you think the FDA should regulate medical spa procedures?  

Sources:

  1. 'The Ricki Lake Show': Cryotherapy
  2. The New York Times: Death of Woman in Tank at Nevada Cryotherapy Center Raises Questions About Safety
  3. 'Entertainment Tonight': Cryohealthcare 
  4. Inc.: Whole Body Cryotherapy Is Taking Over America
  5. Journal of Sports Medicine