When Amber Dodson needs a break from her rigorous workout regimen, she steps into a high-tech machine that looks like a giant energy drink can. Only her head is visible as the temperature in the chamber plummets to minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes, liquid nitrogen vapor billowing down the sides.
“I tend to get extremely inflamed and I don’t like taking days off,” said Dodson, 36, who pays $299 a month for as many as 30 sessions at Coast Cryo in Marina del Rey.
Cryotherapy, a freezing treatment used by elite athletes such as LeBron James and Michael Phelps, is just one of the pricey injury recovery and prevention strategies that are exploding in popularity — despite a lack of scientific evidence in many cases to support their efficacy. Cryotherapy alone is expected to grow to a $5.6-billion global industry by 2024, up from $2.5 billion in 2016, said Grand View Research, a market research company.
The remedies — which also include IV therapy drips, vitamin-infused booster shots, hyperbaric oxygen chambers and compression therapy — cater to workout fanatics who insist an old-fashioned ice pack and a Gatorade won’t suffice. They’re now being offered at so-called wellness boutiques; medical offices, weight loss clinics, and traditional spas.
Drip Doctors, for example, offers more than two dozen intravenous drips and booster shots to increase energy, promote faster recovery and aid in weight loss. There’s an $89 Hydroboost IV vitamin drip for “instant hydration,” a $30 Supercharged booster shot for “an intense burst of oomph” or a wallet-busting $220 Limitless IV vitamin drip.
Skeptics contend that there is little benefit to IV drip therapy for people who are essentially healthy, saying people are capable of hydrating sufficiently and getting the nutrients they need through food.
A consumer update by the Food and Drug Administration in 2016 said despite claims that cryo helps treat conditions like Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stress, anxiety or chronic pain, “this so-called ‘treatment’ hasn’t been proven to do any of these things.”
Some studies suggest one can get as much localized benefit from a simple ice pack. But a study conducted by the France-based National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance focused mainly on sports injuries and found that whole body cryotherapy aided in faster muscle injury recovery.
“It’s taking a more natural and preventive approach to health,” said Dr. Anthony Ho, a co-founder and chief of business operations at Drip Doctors. “It started out being more at the high end, with celebrities, corporate types. We wanted to make it available to the masses.”
Social media and Hollywood have fueled the fad. Actress Mandy Moore, “Dancing with the Stars’ ” Derek Hough and Mark Ballas, and athletes Floyd Mayweather and Shaquille O’Neal are just some of the celebrities who have touted the benefits of cryotherapy. Madonna once said she gave Justin Timberlake a B12 shot “because we only had a certain amount of days in the studio” and she wanted his energy levels to be high.
Some of the futuristic treatments are even making their way home.
Hyperice Inc. designs and sells a $199 vibrating thigh roller, as well as heat and compression devices for legs, shoulders and backs for $249 each. The products have been used by basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin, skier Lindsey Vonn and more than 200 professional and collegiate sports teams.