health

The truth about cryotherapy.

Roxy Jacenko frequently posts about it, Sylvia Jeffreys did it on national television and many a blogger is jumping, albeit with a beanie on hand, into its chambers.

Cryotherapy – a treatment where the human body is enveloped by temperatures that plummet to as low as minus 180 degrees Celsius – is the newest, funkiest, Instagram-worthy wellness trend where those who partake literally freeze their way to good health.

You will not find a colder place on earth than in a cryotherapy chamber, where liquid nitrogen blasts the body, causes it to go into survival mode and sends blood to your heart. At that temperature, a rose literally shatters.

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The idea behind the treatment is simple: It appeals to our vanity, promising anti-aging benefits and the ability to speed up even the slowest of metabolisms.

But as the trend populates our news feeds and sets up shop on our street corners, doctors are scratching their heads, skeptical about the bizarre beauty treatment and cautious about women’s desire to jump on a viral bandwagon.

According to Dr Dasha Fielder of Sapphire Family Medical Practice in Bondi Junction, in theory, the idea of cooling ourselves to good health isn’t without merit.

After all, she tells Mamamia, there is “a lot of evidence to show” that “lowering our core temperature” is good for things like inflammation, and especially things like sporting injuries.

“We know if we are cooling the tissue the inflammation cells reduce in their production,” she says, referring to the practice of icing injuries.

However, she argues, there’s quite a difference between using ice to ease inflammation and subjecting your body to such extreme sub-zero temperatures.

“There have been lots of claims that it will help with everything and anything and that simply isn’t the case.

“There have not been any studies to show the benefits of full body cryotherapy yet.”

Dr Fielder says the “main thing for [her] is the safety aspect”, citing that one woman has been found dead in a cryotherapy chamber and noting many others have fallen sick after its use.

In October 2015, 24-year-old Chelsea Ake died after becoming trapped in a cryochamber for 10 hours when it failed to turn off in Las Vegas. She was working at the clinic, and wanted to have a quick treatment before heading home after work.

Rick Harris, a lawyer representing the Ake family, told Sunday Night in 2016 the therapy’s design has fundamental flaws that led to Chelsea’s death. That it wasn’t operator fail. And that it could happen to anyone.

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“People don’t know that if they stoop down too low they’re going to die,” he told the program at the time.

This reason – along with the fact the benefits are yet to be proven – has Dr Fielder cautious.

“It’s definitely not something I would be recommending, especially when it’s costing $60-$100 dollars per visit, it needs to be proven and tested and it certainly hasn’t been.”

She also says those under the age of 18 should give it a miss, along with those over about 65. Those with heart disease, diabetes and lung disease should also probably sit this one out, too.

“People are constantly looking for a quick fix but sadly I would say quick fixes don’t usually work.

“I think often people are seeking these treatments because they are not well and are looking to improve their health. If that’s really the case they should make sure they have got advice from their doctors and more evidence-based treatments that could be more of more benefit.”

Adding that she doesn’t see “any benefit at all” to spending the money on a treatment like this, Dr Fielder says there is evidence that diet and exercise “can reduce pain and inflammation”, and perhaps this is a better place to start.

“So many people money and therefore think it’s going to work, but in reality it’s a business. It’s popular because of great marketing.”

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