LeBron James uses it. So does Demi Moore.
It’s cryotherapy, the latest “wellness” trend, which entered central Ohio last week when Chill Cryotherapy opened in Gahanna.
Originally developed in the late 1970s in Japan as a pain-relief treatment similar to ice baths, cryotherapy has gained favor in the past decade or so as athletes and others have embraced it in pursuit of quicker recovery from muscle soreness.
Kristin Scott, a Victoria’s Secret merchandising executive, learned about it by reading an online posting.
“I follow every fitness and fashion blog,” she said, “and one day I saw a post that said, ‘Demi Moore uses this to stay young.’ So I started researching it. I found a cryotherapy salon across from the hotel I was staying at in New York. I’m always sore because I work out daily, so I decided to try it. I was immediately hooked.”
After visiting such salons in other cities she visited, she and her husband decided to open one in Columbus.
Chill Cryotherapy offers treatments that are localized, such as facials, as well as a whole-body treatment — or rather, whole body from the neck down.
For the localized treatments, a staff member aims a stream of cold smoke from a liquid-nitrogen tank for about six minutes at the body part being treated. Clothes and makeup can be left on.
The whole-body treatment is done in a booth — a “cryo sauna” — and takes three minutes. A staff member pumps the booth full of the cold smoke, sending the temperature inside down to minus 264 degrees and pushing skin temperature down to 45 degrees.
“It’s really fast,” Scott said. “You can practically leave your car running.”
A whole-body treatment costs $50. Discounts are available for multiple visits; a month of an unlimited number of visits costs $350. Localized treatments and facials are $30 for one treatment, $75 for three or $200 for 10.
Scott recommends that men wear underwear during the whole-body treatment while women should wear underwear and a bra without wires. In fact, nothing containing metal should be worn in the booth. The salon provides socks, slippers and gloves, all to be worn in the booth. That’s key for avoiding discomfort or frostbite.
“It’s colder than jumping in the snow on the coldest day of the year,” said Luke King, a customer who had come in to ease pain from back surgery. “It feels good.”
While the cryotherapy treatment might feel good, “it’s not a medical device,” Scott said. “It’s a wellness device.”
Anyone with high blood pressure or heart disease should avoid the treatment.
The treatment forces the body to pull blood from extremities, she said.
“Then you step out, and all that blood is newly enriched and oxygenated. All the inflammation is reduced. That’s why it’s popular with pro athletes. They can use this and go right back to their workout.”
At least that’s what athletes, including the Cleveland Cavaliers star James, believe. A booth was put to use this summer when the Cavaliers installed one in their training facility during the team’s run to the NBA Finals.
For an athlete such as James, the advantage is that the treatment is faster and less messy than an ice bath, said Dr. Michael Jonesco of the Ohio State University Sports Medicine team.
“But for most of us, there’s not a whole lot of advantage compared to a whole-body ice-water immersion,” he said.
The treatment might work well at cooling some tissues, which can be helpful in treating sprains and other soft-tissue injuries.
“They’ve done studies looking at soft tissue and how well (cryotherapy) can cool an area compared to an ice bag or immersion in an ice bath,” Jonesco said. “An ice bag is most effective. Ice bath and cryotherapy are about equal.”
Local athletes who have tried out the booth include members of the Columbus Crew SC, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the OSU baseball team and numerous weekend warriors.
One of the latter group is Candice Nowinski of New Albany, a half-marathoner who credits the cryo sauna with helping her rev up her running.
“I cut 25 seconds off my mile,” Nowinski said. “I’ve been working hard, but my legs haven’t been tired. When I ran, it didn’t feel like I was working that hard.”
Although open only a week, the salon is doing well, Scott said, and groups have been inquiring about bachelorette parties.
Expansion plans are in the works, she said. “There’s definitely a demand.”