PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO) --Athletes and celebrities are among those spreading the word about cryotherapy. Centers that cool your body in subzero temperatures are popping up in the Bay Area and around the nation. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney looks at the claims and the concerns.
Federal regulators warn some of the claims are unproven. But many people that spoke with 7 On Your Side, who had used the centers, are convinced of their benefits. Temperatures inside the chamber get as low as 180 degrees below zero.
"I'm getting a lot of relief from some chronic old injuries, knee, lower back," said Tracy resident Scott La Plante.
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"All of a sudden I feel more energized," said Thomas Miller, a Pleasanton resident.
Popularized by athletes such as Lebron James and such TV shows as "Shark Tank", cryotherapy chambers are popping up in the Bay Area and across the country.
"I had originally seen it on 'Housewives,' actually," said Pleasanton resident Michelle DeLucia.
Franchise owner Aaron Howe opened US Cryotherapy in Pleasanton this past summer.
"Many benefits come from it, reducing inflammation, you're also relieving pain. You're going to get a mood elevation," Howe said.
Kevin Kramer is the company's CEO and says by next year his company could expand from the current nine locations to 28. He describes the therapy as cold shock. He says the frigid temperatures release chemicals in your body and stimulate blood flow.
"The response are amazing. The range of motion, the improvement in inflammatory responses. The recovery," Kramer said.
Sessions at US Cryotherapy last anywhere from two and one half to three and a half minutes.
"US Cryotherapy implies that it's therapeutic, most definitely. There's a certain wellness benefit to it that's undeniable," Kramer said.
Stanford biologist Craig Heller developed a glove-like device that cool's the body's temperature and reenergizes the body. Heller says the invention is used by Stanford athletes as well as other pro and collegiate teams. He says the claims of some cryotherapy centers have gone too far.
"There's a lot of hype and I think its not supported by good science," Heller says.
The Food and Drug Administration warns some cryotherapy centers may be making misleading claims about treating asthma, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and even weight gain. The FDA is especially concerned with the use of liquid nitrogen to generate the cold because of the risk of asphyxiation.
US Cryotherapy doesn't do that. It generates its freezing temperature using electricity. It also says it doesn't make medical claims.
"The rheumatoid arthritis, the cellulite, the weight loss, the skin conditions you won't find those on the US Cryotherapy website," Kramer said.
But he says his clients find it beneficial
"People are finding benefits on their own. We don't claim them," he said.
But he says they are working on clinical support for certain medical claims.
Finney: "I know people are going to listen to this interview and say you danced around what it can do."
"I won't debate that. It's not in a medically approved position at this point," Kramer said.
The industry is largely unregulated.