SHREVEPORT, La, - Whole body cryotherapy is a growing trend at spas and wellness centers, partly because it's popular with athletes and celebrities.
Besides speeding recovery, people who promote the idea of exposing yourself to subzero temperatures claim it can relieve arthritis, asthma and anxiety and give you more youthful-looking skin.
"I'm at a point in my life where the older you get the more sleep and recovery becomes to you," said Sam Spivey, a regular customer at Chill + Heal in Shreveport.
Spivey spends a couple of times a week in the full body cryotherapy chamber. He's been going two times a week for the last year and a half.
"I've exercised all my life, never have gotten away from it,” Spivey said.
But when he started to have chronic pain in his back and knees a friend recommended cryotherapy.
“And when he did this he said within two sessions everything really changed,” said Spivey, who then tried it himself.
How tough can it be to stand in a sauna for 3 minutes that's colder Antarctica? Cryotherapy starts at a temperature of negative 135 degrees. Level 3 is negative 184 degrees.
"Whole body cryo is not an ice pack. It's not an ice bath. It's a general trigger for your flight or fight mechanism," says Larry West, who along with wife Jennifer owns Chill + Heal.
What's the fight or flight mechanism and how does it work? Basically blood rushes from the extremities to the core and becomes super-charged with oxygen.
"When that super charged blood goes back into the extremities, it does a self-check. It scans from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet looking for anything potential area that could have been damaged during the flight or fight that it needs to try to repair very, very quickly," Larry West said.
There’s no denying cryotherapy is quickly growing in popularity among celebrities and especially athletes.
"We have the same machine as the Saints, Cubs, Lakers, Falcons, Padres, Cleveland Indians,” said Larry West.
Cold therapy has been around for a long time --about 3,000 years. It's really not that new.
"A doctor in California created the chamber in 1970. … He did it for clients that were suffering from rheumatoid arthritis," said Jennifer West, who is one of 10 master trainers in the U.S. for Cryo Skin 4.0. It works differently than full body cryo.
Cryo skin 4.0 is static machine that helps kill fat cells by freezing the fat cells and causing the cell wall to rupture and die which means a slimmer body.
"Over time you've got 2 inches, 3 inches. I think the most I've seen in five sessions is 6 inches during those five sessions," said Jennifer West.
Spivey's goal isn't weight loss. It's to manage joint pain and increase muscle recovery. He says even his massage therapist and chiropractor have noticed a difference.
"She says whatever you're doing keep doing it. Now your back is like working on butter. She says I can't believe the difference," Spivey said.
Whole body cryo is much colder than an ice bath, which requires several minutes. There's also research showing cold therapy increases white blood cells and metabolism, in addition to reducing inflammation.
"We have several people who were taking four to five pain pills a day due to extreme chronic pain we've helped them to either completely eliminate the pain meds or decrease it down to one a day," Larry West said.
His wife adds, "I love the fact that we have people come in the door and when they leave they're way happier than when they came in."
Cryotherapy is generally safe, but it is important to talk to a doctor before trying cryotherapy. Pregnant women, children, people with severe high blood pressure or heart conditions should not try cryotherapy.