Cryotherapy is fast becoming the treatment of choice for pro athletes, like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, who are looking to recover from intense training.
It is also becoming more widely available to everyday sufferers of chronic pain and those looking for faster healing after injury.
Here are the cold, hard details on this cutting-edge treatment.
Jermaine Taylor, 29, dribbled and scored his way to the NBA, but a knee injury had him sidelined very early in his career.
“Second game of the season, I did a move and came down, landed on my leg wrong,” said Taylor.
Wanting to get back in the game as soon as possible, Taylor went to Lorrie Jago, a licensed practical nurse and expert in cryotherapy.
“Cryotherapy is the use of extreme cold temperatures to stimulate healing throughout your body,” Jago said.
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A person is placed in a special chamber with temperatures as low as negative 240 degrees Fahrenheit, for three-minute sessions.
“This triggers a reaction in your nervous system, your sensory receptors in your skin send signals to your brain that you are in trouble. This sets off a whole chain of events inside your nervous system that go to healing,” explained Jago.
But how effective is cryotherapy in the healing process? More research is needed to answer that question, but Taylor said it’s working for him.
“It’s just three minutes of being uncomfortable, but as soon as you get out, you feel the relief right away,” said Taylor, who is getting back to the game that he has loved for more than twenty years.
Recent studies on athletes under the age of 35 indicate that cryotherapy is good for quick pain relief, but may not speed the healing process significantly.
Jago said the treatment is also beneficial for those suffering from arthritis, but would not be good for those with heart conditions or women who are pregnant since it is too much of a stressor on the body.
Cryotherapy is not covered by insurance.
The Federal Drug Administration says consumers should be leery of claims that cyrotherapy treats ailments.
According to a FDA scientific reviewer, potential hazards include asphyxiation, frostbite, burns and eye injury from the extreme temperatures.
Read the FDA warning here.