By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pain relief in an ice sauna. Instead of heat, this new therapy is a total body deep freeze. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl shows you how it works.
Gus is now sold on cold. The 44-year-old suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.
“It’s extremely painful. You have the inflammation in your wrists, your ankle, your knee, and it’s basically your whole body,” said Gus.
After traditional treatments failed, he found relief stepping into an ice sauna. For about three minutes, nitrogen cools the air to minus 270 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s called Cryotherapy. Some say it’s the ultimate chill out to kill pain.
RELATED LINK: Cryotherapy Information
“We’re using temperatures that you can’t replicate anywhere else. Extremely, extremely cold for a very short period of time. It’s very tolerable. People can do this. There shouldn’t be any anxiety. And the extreme cold has an amazing effect on your body,” said Dr. Joans Keuhne, with Cryohealthcare who offers the therapy. He says small doses of cold make a big difference.
“The idea is the extremely cold temperatures change the blood chemistry to release anti-inflammatory molecules that decrease inflammation all over your body,” said Dr. Keuhne.
It shocks and stimulates the central nervous system. The body thinks it’s going to freeze even though it’s not, and that triggers a series of reactions.
Dr. Keuhne says the blood becomes super charged with oxygen and nutrients.
“To be honest with you, I was quite skeptical initially,” said Dr. Rishin Patel, a Pain Expert at Lankenau Medical Center. He says benefits from an ice sauna make sense.
“This is about the physiology. You place ice on a joint, you have vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels, in the localized tissues. That decreases the bleeding, inflammation, as well as it decreases the metabolic rate of the cells that are generating,” said Dr. Patel.
And there’s a smaller hand-held version of Cryotherapy that’s said to be even good for the face and anti-aging.
For Gus, it’s all about the pain relief.
“I think it really makes a difference,” said Gus.
Ice saunas are especially popular with some professional athletes to help speed up the healing process.
They aren’t available on the East Coast yet, but they’ll be in the New York City area in the next six months.