By Taylor Villanueva
Signal Staff Writer
Normally, a temperature of 230 degrees below 0 isn’t associated with pain treatment, it’s hypothermia.
However a growing trend that’s available in Santa Clarita has more and more people willingly walking into such a chamber with that climate for three minutes, with nothing on their bodies but socks and gloves.
It’s not a death wish — it’s cryotherapy, which uses extremely low temperatures to treat pain, lesions and other medical issues.
There are at least two options in the in the Santa Clarita Valley — Ice Recovery and Wellness and MEND Cryotherapy, and several more just south of the Newhall Pass.
“Cryotherapy has been around for 40 years now, everywhere in the world but the U.S.,” said Matt Browning, co-owner of MEND Cryotherapy.
“It was invented for rheumatoid arthritis,” he said, “but now it’s good for all forms of pain management.”
Cryotherapy can also be beneficial for autoimmune deficiencies and for workout recovery, as well, he added.
“It’s also great for your skin,” Browning said.
“We definitely get a lot of referrals from orthopedics,” Browning said. “But a large group comes in because they have already tried everything else. Once they hit the last straw, they look for other methods and come to us.”
The process is said to be nerve-wracking for some because of the fight or flight instinct, and the knowledge that people traditionally can’t survive at temperatures that low.
But because there is no moisture in the chamber, clients don’t get frostbite.
“It doesn’t feel anywhere as bad as you would imagine,” Browning says.
“Your brain knows it’s too cold to survive. It triggers a shock response.”
Cryotherapy attracts a lot of people, from patients with joint pain to clients with skin conditions.
“Typically, we have a lot of people dealing with chronic pain to start off their day,” Browning says.
“It gets them through the day.”
Troy Yudin of ICE Recovery & Wellness said when his sister was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he came to discover the benefits of alternative practices.
“She was young, otherwise healthy and in a lot of pain,” Yudin said.
“When I heard that cryotherapy saunas were being used for RA and other autoimmune and arthritic disorders, I knew I wanted to help connect more people to this amazing treatment. It turns out, only about 40 percent of our clients are here because of athletic recovery.”
Cryotherapy starts off with the client changing into a robe, socks and gloves. Once the client gets into the room, he or she puts on a pair of slide-on shoes. The client will then get into the chamber, making sure to go through all the safety precautions, such as not applying lotion or deodorant to the body 30 minutes before cryotherapy.
Once in the chamber, the client will experience dropping temperatures and short bursts of nitrogen.
Some may experience the feeling of ice forming on their legs the longer they are in the cryo-sauna.
But the end result is a feeling of relief and endorphins flowing through the body.
“If you give it a chance to work, it works,” Yudin said.
“And feeling better is priceless,” he added. “Our clients wouldn’t trade their new-found energy … for anything.”
And for those who think the freezing cold would get to them, the time goes by fairly quickly with a technician in the room.
“The three minutes go by fast with the technician,” says Browning.
The temperatures start off at around negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As the three minutes progress, the temperature drops until it reaches between -220 to -230 degrees.
Some clients experience the feeling of ice forming on their legs as they move around the cryo-chamber.
When the session is over, most of the body warms up fairly quickly, except for the legs, which take a little longer to adjust.
And even though cryotherapy has been a recent treatment for anything from joint pain to skin problems, it won’t necessarily solve all issues.
“It’s not a silver bullet,” Yudin said. “If you have a significant injury, an autoimmune disorder, a lot of weight to lose, nerve pain — it took you awhile to get to that place. You’re not going to have 100 percent recovery with cryo overnight.”
But the cold therapy should help to reduce some pain.
“Sometimes, people book three sessions in a week, and they feel a lot better, but then stop coming,” Yudin said. “Just like healthy eating or exercise, you have to incorporate maintenance into your recovery plan.”