Archive for October, 2010

Cryotherapy: the latest miracle money-waster

October 29th, 2010


At the risk of sounding a bit cranky, I’m going to complain about another piece of new-fangled sports technology. Doug Binder of TrackFocus has an interesting article about Alberto Salazar’s Nike group in Oregon using a “Space Cabin” for cryotheraphy to cool down after workouts:

Step inside this metallic cylinder and liquid nitrogen-cooled air (say, 170 degrees below zero) rushes in and cools your skin to a chilly 30 degrees, yet penetrates just a half millimeter. You slowly rotate for two and a half minutes, holding your hands up and out of the freeze, wearing socks on your toes, and at least some underwear to cover your privates.

Okay, I’m down with ice baths, and maybe this is a super-ice-bath – though I’m certainly curious about how much one of these gadgets costs, and whether it’s actually any better than a simple ice bath. What got me cranky was the manufacturer’s website, which claims that the benefits of this device include (but are not limited to):

* Decreased fatigue
* Decreased muscle soreness
* Decreased injury recovery time
* Quicker surgical recovery
* Psychological competitive edge [okay, this one I believe]
* Decreased anxiety
* Decreased depression
* Decreased incidence of colds and flu
* Tighter, healthier skin
* Cellulite reduction
* Stronger, fuller hair
* Stronger nails
* Fewer skin blemishes
* Increased libido
* Increased sexual stamina

And of course, “it f-ing prints money!” I mean, seriously. They must have lots of evidence to back up those claims, right? Why yes, FAQ no. 17 is “Are there any studies regarding Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBA) in the USA?” The answer is:

Yes, there is. We recently installed cryosauna in the office of Dr. Jonas Kuehne in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California. During a six month study, Dr. Kuehne successfully served his clients with cryoprocedures. HERE you can find a video clip with some results of his studies.

Click on the link and, if you don’t poke your eyes out with a fork, you can watch a lame infomercial by some doctor who makes no mention of a “study” and who simply reasserts that these machines can do everything including your taxes.

Anyway, perhaps I’m being premature in my scorn. Maybe the studies demonstrating all these wonderful effects just haven’t been published yet. After all, it’s fancy new technology, right? As FAQ no. 1 says:

The process was originally developed in Japan in 1978, and the benefits have been studied and refined in Europe since that time.

Silly North Americans, ignoring all these wonderful benefits for the last 32 years!

(Okay, so what’s my real message here? When I first read the story, I was interested to find out more about this technology. But what really turned me off was the wildly inflated claims on the website with a complete lack of evidence. It’s entirely possible that this technique will have some benefits for Salazar’s athletes, but the snake-oil website lowers my confidence in it dramatically.)