NAPLES, Fla. -- Imagine paying money to expose yourself to subzero temperatures...all in the name of health. It's just the latest cutting edge treatment, and it's called cryotherapy.
Stepping into a below freezing chamber may seem like something out of a science fiction movie. But some doctors say cryotherapy not only makes you feel better, but look better, too.
The idea behind it: using below-zero nitrogen gas to internally cool your body and kick start your survival mechanism. Inside the chamber, it's colder than any place on Earth...negative 250 degrees.
Your instinct may tell you to avoid the cryo chamber at all costs. But doctors across the country, including Dr. Ron Repice in Naples, hail them as the ultimate healers. "The main sole purpose is for rapid recovery, and basically helping people ease their pain naturally."
You get inside and stay inside the chamber, but only for three minutes.
Connie Waldo first came to Rejuvenations Chiropractic for care on her aching foot. "Then Doctor Repice said 'well, you should try the cryotherapy chamber, because it helps with inflammation.' I was a little skeptical, but I said okay, I'll try it."
She says ever since her first time in the chamber three months ago, she's been hooked. "When I came out it was just invigorating, it was refreshing, I had so much energy, and I was just thrilled with it. A few more sessions and the pain totally went away."
She says the treatment puts her in a better mood, and it helps her sleep at night. And cryotherapy doesn't just help her feel her best, but look her best, too. "You can burn up to 800 calories, so in the process you're boosting your metabolism. So it jump started my weight loss program," says Connie.
Combined with nutrition and exercise, Connie's lost 24 pounds in 2 months.
But the best part of all: "It's not painful at all."
However, some are skeptical after an infamous case in Las Vegas, where a spa employee died inside a cryotherapy chamber in October, suffocating from low oxygen levels. She was apparently using the treatment on herself after closing hours...alone.
Dr. Repice is not concerned. "When tools like whole body cryotherapy are used appropriately, they're completely safe. There's no concern for the public at all."
The State of Nevada's Health Department has since put guidelines in place for cryotherapy. You must be 18 years or older, without history of stroke, high blood pressure, seizures, or have a pacemaker. The spa must have signs and waivers outlining risks of cryotherapy, and employees must be trained on proper use and certified in CPR.
Also, cryo spas must have nitrogen monitors in the rooms. "We have our monitor here, which monitors air quality here, measuring our 20 percent oxygen in the air," says Repice.
Though these guidelines aren't in place in Florida, Dr. Repice thinks we'll see them in the future, and says he follows them anyway. He says the client is never left unattended, and there's no risk of the client being trapped inside the chamber. "The client is never locked in. There's simply a magnetic strip on the door, so when the door closes it just clicks, magnetically closed like that.
If you're a non-believer, Dr. Repice says to take it from Connie. "It's so worth it, because all the benefits when you get out of here is like hey three minutes to have a great day? I was a non-believer, I was skeptical. But I believe now."
Several websites point out the FDA has not approved cryotherapy for medical use, and some experts say there is no evidence this treatment truly helps people. At this point, you'll just have to judge for yourself.