Citizens of Cy-Fair are stepping into tanks of subzero temperature air to heal aches and pains as well as boost immune systems. With three cryotherapy businesses opening in the area since 2016, the trend has begun to take off.
Cryotherapy involves exposing an individual’s whole body, or a specific area of the body, to below freezing temperatures. Therapy experts say it can accelerate the recovery of sore muscles after working out, prevent Alzheimer’s disease, boost metabolism, increase blood flow and improve overall health.
Although the process does provide certain benefits, they may not always be as clear as advertised, according to health professionals.
Filling a void
Bill and Anna Hanks opened Cryo Recovery in January 2016 in the Vintage Park area. Bill Hanks said the couple founded the business after he suffered a knee injury and recovered using cryotherapy. There were none in north Houston at the time, he said.
The business specializes in whole body cryotherapy, local cryotherapy, cryorecovery facials and Houston’s first photobiomodulation bed, which provides restorative light treatment.
“The whole body [treatment] you tend to do to reduce the whole inflammation in your body,” Hanks said. “The local, we can spot treat a specific area, and then that will help with that area.”
“There’s a lot of health and wellness in the area, there’s a need for it, and we chose the Vintage area because it’s a good plot of the businesses that we have around us,” Hanks said. “We’ve been having a lot of growth.”
Keleey Doyle, a cryo technician for Cryo Recovery since its opening, said the process lasts a short time so the skin can reach a specific temperature.
“We want the skin temperature to be between 40 and 50 degrees [Fahrenheit],” she said. “We can reach that between two and three minutes.”
An expert weighs in
Dr. Darin Tessier, an orthopedic surgeon with Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital and UTHealth, said the main use of cryotherapy is to reduce inflammation. He compared it to a faster version of an ice bath, which athletes use to reduce muscle inflammation.
“Cryotherapy is technically cutting down the response curve,” Tessier said. “It doesn’t change the overall process. It just shortens it and allows the muscles to recover faster.”
Tessier said users of cryotherapy should beware of expenses since the process is not covered by insurance and to make sure the cryo technicians are professionals. As far as other health benefits that some cryotherapy clinics claim to offer, like weight loss, Tessier said they have not been proven.
“The only thing that cryotherapy is shown to alleviate is inflammation,” he said. “I had a wide receiver from a very prominent college in Alabama that I put on cryo after I put a plate and screws in his hand for a fracture, and he was playing within 10 days with no pain. Part of that was the inflammation suppression from cryotherapy.”
Tessier said cryotherapy should be used as a temporary fix and not a miracle cure for any inflammation.
“It’s a very effective modality when used in the right context and with an understanding of what you’re getting out of it,” he said. “You can’t expect it to be a snake oil that’s going to heal everything. It’s not. It’s just a way to accelerate that healing curve.”