Cryotherapy (or “frost therapy”) has been used for centuries and is growing in popularity. Over the last several years, numerous cryotherapy “spas” have opened in the United States and, as of 2017, there were some 400 such spas operating cryochambers (or cryosaunas) in 38 states.
Cryotherapy spas have come under scrutiny after a 2015 incident in which an employee, working at a cryotherapy spa in Las Vegas, was found dead after using a cryochamber unsupervised.
Learn more about cryotherapy, the reported health benefits, and the possible safety risks.
The Health Benefits of Cryotherapy
Advocates claim that there are many benefits of cryotherapy and that the treatment is highly safe when it is properly performed. The type of whole body cryotherapy in use at cryohealth centers today was developed in 1978 as a rheumatoid arthritis treatment. While this treatment is often covered by health insurance in other nations, the U.S.healthcare industry does not recognize cryotherapy for insurance purposes or much regulate the field.
Unlike immersion in an ice bath, the chill of cryotherapy is dry so it does not feel uncomfortable, like submersion in an ice bath would. Exposure to chilled air can treat sports injuries, muscle soreness, joint pain, pain and inflammation associated with health conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia, and immune function. Some even claim that cryotherapy can help with weight loss or delay the aging process.
Is Cryotherapy Safe?
Individuals with certain health conditions — including hypertension, heart disease, seizures, anemia, pregnancy, and claustrophobia — should not use cryotherapy. For other individuals, cryotherapy has generally been considered safe. Some individuals may experience redness or skin irritation, an allergic reaction to the cold, frostbite, or skin burns.
If the individual stays in the cryotherapy chamber longer than recommended, or the facility does not take the proper precautions, health risks increase. Typically, people are only supposed to expose themselves to the cold temperatures in the cryo chamber for two to three minutes. The salon where the woman died was apparently selling 30-minute sessions, the New York Post reports. 30 minutes is too long to spend in frigid temperatures.
In the case of the employee who died in a cryotherapy chamber, no one apparently knew the woman was in there since she went in alone after work. Most cryotherapy chambers only allow people to use the facility when someone is onsite monitoring them as a first line safety precaution.
Even if the employee did not follow proper procedures in entering the cryo chamber, her death raised awareness of hidden dangers in this unregulated industry. People want to know whether this popular treatment is safe for them. The salon where the woman died was not licensed with the State of Nevada.
An oxygen monitor is a device that measures oxygen levels in the room, to ensure the air has enough oxygen for respiration. Also called an oxygen deficiency monitor or an O2 monitor, an oxygen monitor uses a sensor to measure oxygen levels. By tracking oxygen levels, gas leaks can be detected even though the leaking substance cannot be seen or smelled.
Safety Measures for Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy can be safe when performed by a licensed facility that has safeguards in place to make sure that those undergoing treatment do not stay in too long, do not get overlooked, and are not exposed to environmental hazards.
One reliable way to monitor the environment of the cryo chamber is to use an oxygen monitor or oxygen deficiency monitor. An oxygen deficiency monitor continuously measures the amount of oxygen in the environment and sets off an alarm if oxygen falls below a safe level.
Where You Install an Oxygen Monitor?
Oxygen monitors should be installed anywhere there is a risk of gas leaks. Place one oxygen monitor in any room where you store inert gases and in any room where these gases are used. This way, if you have a helium, argon, or nitrogen spill — for instance, in a university science lab — the oxygen sensor will detect the lower levels of oxygen and sound the alarm.
Cryohealth chambers use a form of nitrogen to create a dry frost and chill the chamber. Nitrogen, when used in high doses, creates an oxygen deficient environment. In a worst-case scenario, the room could become so oxygen deficient that anyone inside could suffocate to death.
Since nitrogen does not have an odor or a color, individuals cannot see it. When a cryohealth chamber is equipped with an oxygen monitor, the air inside will not fall below safe levels without first alerting staff to the drop in oxygen. Staff can then assist any patients in evacuating the cryotherapy chamber before something bad happens.
PureAire offers O2 monitors that are made with zirconium sensors, which are guaranteed to last for at least 10 years and hold up equally well in humid and dry environments. Once the facility sets up O2 monitors in every cryo chamber, staff can rest assured that the monitors will alert them to any sudden change in oxygen levels with enough time to get people outside of the chamber before something bad happens.
When a facility uses oxygen monitors inside the chambers, has a license from the State, and ensures that staff monitor the chambers during treatments, cryotherapy can be performed safely.
To learn more about PureAire’s line of oxygen deficiency monitors, visit www.pureairemonitoring.com.