It kind of looks like a futuristic refrigerator, but brochure photos featuring clouds of fog sweeping up its sides and a front door that’s basically a window indicates something more serious.
It’s the °CRYO Arctic™ Whole Body Cryotherapy Chamber, and it’s arrived at the Air Force’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, home to I Corps and 62d Airlift Wing.
It is the first such use of cryotherapy by the Air Force “in the pursuit of the peak performance and well-being of their Air Force personnel,” according to a press release from manufacturer °CRYO Science.
The first military base to install a similar chamber was Fort Hood last November. So, why cryotherapy?
Baby, It’s Cold Inside
Unlike stepping into a refrigerator at a balmy 38 degrees, this cryotherapy chamber starts at minus 33 degrees but soon descends to -220F. The limit of one’s stay inside the chamber is usually three minutes but may last up to 60.
Cryotherapy is purported to create physical and mental health benefits by stimulating blood circulation and increasing the oxygen and nutrient supply to the areas of the body that need healing. It’s also said to speed up muscle recovery, reduces tissue damage, decrease inflammation and relieve pain by increasing cellular survival and strengthening the immune system.
Other claims include “triggering an analgesic reaction in the neural mind leading to positive mood states, which can have a positive impact on depression, sleep disorders and overall wellbeing.”
So, let’s say you’re next in line in the chamber cue, what next? People enter wearing underwear and are provided mittens, socks and foot protection to protect extremities.
“I felt like a boss—negative 240 degrees couldn’t faze me!”
One online user reported feeling fine until the third minute when they started to feel the cold burn. Chicago Tribune reporter Christen Johnson tried it and wrote, “I felt like a boss—negative 240 degrees couldn’t faze me!” Manufacturers say this “cold high” is caused by a “surge of endorphins and burst of energy.”
A Cool Track Record
Professional athletes and celebrities have been using cryotherapy for years, the former to recovery faster from brutal workouts and the latter to look younger. Its origin is found in ancient Egypt where cold was found to help alleviate sore muscles. More recent medical applications typically involve the treatment of benign and malignant skin lesions.
Christina Sanders, general manager of the PX on Fort Hood, told KCEN-TV that she’s seen the treatments help service members and veterans cope with pain, stress and PTSD.
“It can really help to address chronic pain throughout the entire body… especially with inflammation and that is a big, big thing when it comes to our chamber,” Sanders said. “It helps to improve range of motion,” she added, explaining the endorphin and norepinephrine boost also improves sleep.
The Fort Hood chamber bottoms out at -190, so the Lewis-McChord base boasts the coldest treatment available in the armed forces right now with -220.
Sanders said some users come daily, while others visit a few times a week.
“This is really helping people,” Sanders said. “Whether it’s mentally or physically—it’s just a better quality of life.”