Cold Therapy (Cryotherapy)

Cold Therapy (Cryotherapy)

Whole-Body Cryotherapy
"Liquid Nitrogen" by Matylda Sek (CC BY 3.0)

Cryotherapy is the process of using very cold temperatures for medical therapy. Most people are familiar with the idea of cold therapy (sitting in a cold tub or placing ice on a wound), but whole-body cryotherapy has recently gained popularity.

The question is whether lowering the temperature of the skin to -200°F is beneficial—and more importantly—whether it’s safe.

Cryotherapy is used in various forms in order to reduce pain and muscle spasms, slow cell aging, improve health, and improve recovery. Whole-body cryotherapy is accomplished in a special chamber that uses liquid nitrogen.

Whole-body cryotherapy was invented in Japan in the 1970s, but has only gained a foothold the U.S. and other countries within the last ten years. It has become quite popular with athletes and people with some chronic pain. While there are quite a number of claims to the benefits, it also has a fair number of serious health risks.

Benefits of Cryotherapy

While doctors frequently recommend icing an injured area in order to decrease inflammation, some types of cryotherapy involves the use of extreme cold in an effort to destroy diseased tissue. Some of the benefits frequently credited to cold therapy include:

  • Quicker recovery from exercise
  • Potential boost to the immune system
  • Increase in the energy level and boost to metabolism
  • Help with inflammation

Risks of Cryotherapy

In spite of the proclaimed benefits of cryotherapy, there are a few serious risks involved when a person enters a sub-zero chamber. Two known cases of injury involve a user who wore damp clothing within the confines of the chamber and developed frostbite, and another involves the wrongful death of a cryo-sauna employee who used a tank without the presence of a trained technician.

Since whole-body cryotherapy is not regulated at the present time, it is quite possible we will learn additional information about both the risks and benefits following more research.

Notable Injuries and Claims

  • A Dallas hairstylist filed a lawsuit against a cryotherapy center when they froze her arm. This occurred when the gloves they provided her to wear were damp. She went to the hospital the next day where she was diagnosed and treated for third degree burns.
  • In August 2012, a California woman was awarded $12 million in a lawsuit after a cold therapy device cause the skin on her legs to die.

In July 2016, the FDA issued an update that stated the process is not proven effective and may actually have more risks than previously reported.

Those who have been injured at a cryotherapy center have a right to seek compensation for any injuries that sustain. It is important to discuss your potential case with a personal injury attorney who specializes in product liability claims. If you have legal questions, seek out a free consultation with an attorney near you.

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