Every week, Chris Siggins, 65, climbs into a sauna to relieve her rheumatoid arthritis pain. But it’s not a warm sauna. It’s more than 200 degrees below zero.
In addition to regular exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet and other holistic therapies, Siggins has been using whole body cryotherapy at 40drop CryoCenter in Cedar Rapids to reduce pain, increase energy and improve her sleep, she said.
“Every morning I have pain in my hands, knees, feet, shoulders, hip ... It travels,” she explained. “I’m trying to manage the pain without drugs and I’m still trying to find the best tools for maximum relief.”
Proponents of cryotherapy say exposing the body to subzero temperatures — as low as 260 degrees below — for just a few minutes releases endorphins and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body, which is believed to decrease inflammation, relieve pain, speed up recovery from intense workouts or injury, boost collagen production, improve skin, reduce cellulite, elevate your mood and improve sleep and energy levels.
As long as the client’s surface temperature drops 20 degrees or more, they can expect to see results, said Todd Diestler, owner of 40drop.
“Your body thinks you’re freezing to death,” Diestler said. “The cold constricts the circulatory system to your extremities to protect your vital organs. Your blood becomes nutrient rich and oxygenated and then when you get out, the dilation (of your circulatory system) increases the flow of nutrient-rich blood from head to toe.”
Cryotherapy was invented in Japan in the 1970s and is now sweeping the nation as the coolest new trend in pain relief and athletic performance.
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Instead of sitting through a torturous ice bath, for example, athletes are turning to whole body cryotherapy. In as few as three minutes, they can achieve the same effect as an ice bath, but “it’s a lot less painful, time consuming and messy,” Diestler said.
After opening 40drop to the public just a few weeks ago, Diestler said he’s already seen at least 100 customers. Most say they see benefits immediately, he added.
“I’ve been blown away,” Diestler said. “Everybody who uses it, by the time they’re leaving, whatever ache or pain they had, they already notice a difference.”
“The first time I got in I was like, oh my gosh, what am I doing,” Siggins said. “When I got out, it was like ... I’m alive.”
The results are still only anecdotal, however. There is little research or data to support the benefits of cryotherapy and it is not FDA approved. In fact, the FDA has sent warning letters to some cryotherapy centers advising some of the health claims being made may be considered false and misleading.
At 40drop, $30 gets you in the sauna for the first time. After that it’s $60 per session, or clients can purchase packages to make continued treatments more affordable. Packages start at three sessions for $170 and go up from there. An unlimited package can be purchased for $349. 40drop also offers cryo-facials and localized cryotherapy.
Before a whole body treatment, clients first fill out a waiver to address any health concerns or conditions. Those with certain conditions — particularly heart or blood pressure conditions — should talk to their doctor before climbing into the sauna. Piercings from the neck down are not allowed, either.
After filling out the waiver, clients strip down to their underwear in a dressing room, slip on a robe, a pair of socks, slippers and mittens and then climb into the sauna, which has already been cooled to under 200 degrees below zero.
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Standing in the chamber, their head remains above a nitrogen cloud — bending down could result in a loss of oxygen and potentially death. But just one death has been reported, Diestler said. It was an employee of a spa in Henderson, Nev., who went into the sauna after hours, when no one else was around.
It’s thought that she may have dropped her cellphone and when she bent down to pick it up, her oxygen was cut off and she passed out in the sauna and froze to death, he explained.
Since then, safe guards, including doors that never lock and the system shutting off and evacuating all of the nitrogen after three minutes, have been put in place to prevent more accidents.
While in the sauna, clients can expect to feel cold, but not unbearably so.
“Your skin will tingle and some parts will feel painful,” Diestler said.
Treatments generally last just three minutes or less, depending on how long you can stand it. They can be terminated at any time.
“This is not a spa,” Diestler said. “If you’re coming here, it’s for a reason.”
IF YOU GO
What: Whole Body Cryotherapy
Where: 40drop CryoCenter, 568 Boyson Rd NE #180, Cedar Rapids, IA
When: Monday-Thursday 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 4-7 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday 8-11 am
Cost: $30 introductory, then $60 per session or packages starting at $170
Details: Cryotherapy may relieve pain, decrease inflammation, speed up recovery from workouts or injury, boost collagen production, improve skin, reduce cellulite, elevate your mood and improve sleep and energy levels. The therapy is not FDA approved.