Last week, 24-year-old Chelsea Ake-Salvacion was found dead inside a cryotherapy chamber at the Nevada-based center Rejuvenice where she was employed.
The incident is raising questions about the safety of this relatively new spa experience that thousands of Americans, including world-class athlete LeBron James and actress Demi Moore, are using for its purported benefits, which are as varied as enhanced athletic performance and smoother skin.
Upon farther investigation, Nevada officials discovered that the center did not have proof of a workers’ compensation insurance policy, which is required by Nevada state law, the New York Times reports.
So, on Tuesday, officials shut the center down until proof of such a policy is provided. Once the proof is in, the center can re-open, officials told the New York Times.
As of right now, the shut down does not appear to have anything to do with the safety of the center’s cryochambers, which offers an increasingly popular spa experience called whole body cryotherapy.
The science on cryotherapy is inconclusive
The word cryotherapy is derived from the Greek words “cryo” meaning cold and “therapia” meaning healing, and it refers to any procedure that uses low temperatures to treat bodily ailments such as inflammation or skin lesions.
These chambers can be found at centres across the country — usually in large cities like New York City, Chicago, and Las Angeles — and use liquid nitrogen to reduce the temperatures inside the chamber to as low as 240 degree Fahrenheit.
Nitrogen is a gas at room temperature, so the way most chambers work is to pump a separate container with liquid nitrogen and then expose that to the temperature of the room wherein it evaporates into a chilly mist that is then fed into the chamber where a person is standing.
The entire procedure takes no more than three minutes.
The idea is that the extreme cold reduces inflammation across the entire body and, therefore, relieves the pain that comes with that inflammation.
Though centres across Europe market whole body cryotherapy as a treatment for diseases caused by inflammation, centres in the US cannot do the same. Scientific research into the procedure’s alleged medical benefits is inconclusive — some small studies have found that the therapy works while others have dubbed it ineffective.
Until a larger study is conducted to sway one side over the other, these freezing chambers will not be FDA certified and, therefore, cannot be marketed to treat diseases caused by inflammation.
Moreover, any cryochamber sold in the US is required to display a disclaimer saying that they are not FDA certified.
Regardless, professional athletes and celebrities have been reported using these chambers on a regular basis for anything from muscle recovery after a hard workout to maintaining a smooth complexion.
Ake-Salvacion’s death could make people who are unfamiliar with the process question its safety.
However, take note that the night before her body was discovered, she was reportedly using the chamber after hours, alone, which was not a good idea.
It is easy to lose track of time and the human body can only withstand such extreme cold for a very brief stint. After that, it becomes extremely dangerous.
If your body temperature dips below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, hypothermia will set in. At 82 degrees you’re likely to lose consciousness and below 70 degrees death can occur.
That’s why if you visit any of these freezing centres, an expert will stand by and monitor both the air temperature and time you’ve been in the chamber.
The cause of the young woman’s death has not yet been determined.
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