Sometimes an ice pack just isn’t enough. Athletes and celebrities are flash-freezing themselves to soothe aches and pains, increase athletic performance and decrease injury recovery time. Known as whole body cryotherapy (WBC), the treatment is also reported to help with weight loss, signs of aging and a bevy of other health concerns. With WBC providers popping up across Canada, soon anyone will be able to turn themselves into a human Popsicle. But should you?
How it works
You spend two to three minutes in a walk-in room called a cryo chamber or a tube-like cryo sauna that covers you from the neck down. Using nitrogen gas, the temperature is dropped to an unthinkable -150 degrees C.
Who does it
Cryotherapy has been big in Europe for decades. It picked up steam in North America in 2011 when Dallas Mavericks players praised WBC after the team won the NBA finals. WBC is now used by most NBA teams, as well as Tour de France cyclists, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo and boxer Floyd Mayweather. In 2012, Demi Moore took up the practice as part of her anti-aging routine (it’s purported to boost collagen). This year, Lindsay Lohan revealed she was using WBC to help with joint pain. Other converts include Mandy Moore, Minka Kelly and Katy Perry, who recently told reporters that she wants a “cryogenic chamber” of her own to relieve stress and insomnia.
What are the benefits?
According to Andrew Robertson, managing director of Millennium ICE Canada, Canada’s cryo sauna distributor, the treatment seems to help people in completely different ways, zeroing in on where it’s most needed “as crazy as that sounds.” Robertson says his mother uses it to relieve migraines and to sleep better. Others use it to lose weight — one session is said to boost metabolism and burn 500 to 800 calories.
How much does it cost?
Anywhere from $35 to $95 for two-and-a-half minutes.
What does it feel like?
“My nipples are about to fall off,” cried the Mavericks’ Shawn Marion during his first session. But Robertson says it’s a dry cold that is more tolerable than a winter day in Canada.
How do you feel afterwards?
Pretty pumped — users get an endorphin rush from the oxygenated blood flowing back to their extremities. Pain relief is said to occur immediately and last for 24 hours.
What does science say?
Research shows that WBC reduces inflammation, and one study found it was an effective short-term treatment for depression and anxiety. Yet, a 2014 paper in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that ice packs and cold water “offer comparable physiological and clinical effects to whole body cryotherapy.” The verdict is still out on whether WBC will make you look younger or lose weight.