We are providing "the only true cryotherapy" is a marketing message you will find on many websites of businesses offering whole body cryo. Likely, its main purpose is to attract prospects to the particular location and to warn them not to go to the competitor two blocks away - we all have ways to convince people that we are better than the rivals.
In this case, though, there are more serious consequences. I find this marketing strategy short-sighted and industry-damaging. Here's WHY.
This article was inspired by correspondence that I recently had with a company selling and installing electrically cooled whole body cryotherapy chambers.
In response to my invitation to join 1M People Pain Free challenge by CryoProsUnited, aimed at boosting awareness of cryotherapy benefits in reducing pain, came the following e-mail:
“IMAGINE us being part of this campaign, blended with many nitrogen providers around the country looking for increased traffic and revenue …
We are unwilling to link our brand to any business utilizing nitrogen for cooling”.
The underlying message not clearly put in writing here but expressed in our meeting a few months prior was that there is no such a thing as “cryotherapy industry”. There are two distinct industries, they will have their own development paths, and only one of them has a chance to survive – the one that involves electric cooling. Period.
DO YOU BELIEVE IT?
Does this position help the relatively much smaller group of electric cryotherapy providers rise to new heights, or does it confuse the public and harm the perception of cryotherapy as a worthy wellness treatment?
If there was an accident, like the one in Vegas back in 2015, would it keep the electric equipment owners from scrutiny? (for the record: the percentage of nitrogen-cooled equipment owners in the pool of cryotherapy providers is steadily GROWING, not decreasing).
As much as I respect all equipment manufacturers regardless of the type, size and price of the equipment offered, I feel that uniting efforts while keeping the differences would be a much wiser and more sustainable strategy.
Whether we want it, or not, ALL cryotherapy locations fight for attention of the same crowd in the same space of holistic wellness. The awareness of cryotherapy is still very low, and the understanding of it is even lower.
Those who are just discovering cryotherapy for the first time need to learn the process and the benefits in very simple words rather than be involved in a discussion about types of cooling – IF they decide that cryotherapy is for them, they will go to the location that’s convenient, provided that they can find one in their vicinity at all. Keeping them from trying if there is no electric cryochamber nearby SERVES NO ONE.
Those who have already chosen to be cryotherapy users should be educated about the applications and the best regimen to achieve the results they are seeking rather than get drawn into a marketing battle between providers of two types of equipment or treatment. Unfortunately, this feud is full of half-truths, and all it creates is misperception and confusion.
Let's look at the facts.
The “only true” cryosauna or cryochamber statement is nothing but a marketing trick by proponents of one type of cooling vs the other.
It hides FOUR MYTHS, all of them proven not to be true.
Myth #1: “cryo treatment only occurs in below -166°F, and electrically cooled equipment is just not cold enough to provide one”. This "argument" is used by nitrogen proponents. When I just started in the industry, I was also told that the “cryo zone” only begins at -110°C (−166°F), and all equipment that’s not capable of reaching or sustaining temperatures this low is nothing but a freezer. This would apply to all electric cryochambers.
NOT REALLY. The treatment temperature has only one purpose – to RAPIDLY lower skin temperature by AT LEAST 30°, so that the body feels in physical jeopardy, and the acute stress response that we call fight-or-flight occurs. The drop of skin temperature is THE ONLY RELEVANT CRITERION, and it is achieved in all types of cryocabins on the market.
Myth #2: “the colder the better”. WRONG, provided that the treatment temperature is low enough to be perceived by the body as not survivable. The threshold is about -120°F which is close to the lowest temperature ever registered on earth.
It IS true that the lower the ambient temperature, the faster the skin temperature drops, and the shorter the exposure to the extreme environment can be. At the same time, treatments in temperatures in between -120°F and -166°F have demonstrated the SAME results as treatments in below -166°F. The only prerequisite for an effective procedure is the difference in skin temperature before and after. It needs to exceed 30°. In some single electric chamber systems that do not get as cold as the multi-chamber electric or nitrogen cooled devices, the skin temperature drop is stimulated by an added air flow (wind chill) to get to the target faster. Either way, the fight-or-flight is initiated.
It shall also be noted that the treatment temperature measurement methods differ from one manufacturer to another; so, the temperature readings could not always be compared “as presented”. Measurements taken close to the source of cold will always be different from those taken inside the client’s cabin, and there is very little rationale in demanding or providing -300°F over -240°F. In early years of cryotherapy in the US, there was a “-300 °F club”, and people coming in for treatments often asked the providers to get there. Today, most cryotherapy business owners choose not to go this low to reduce the risk of frostbites, and rightly so.
Myth #3: “you need to be immersed in cold head to toe for a “true” cryo”. This is the favorite argument of manufacturers and sellers of electric cryochambers – they say it cannot be “whole body cryotherapy” if some part of it remains outside. You have, most likely, also seen thermal images “proving the point” (usually it’s the same quite old thermal image circulated throughout the market).
MISLEADING. The thermal imaging cameras that are now built into some cryosauna models show a totally different picture. Despite speculations, BOTH cryosaunas and cryochambers have proven to initiate the fight-or-flight reaction. It means, they all offer “true” cryo. It has also been noted by researchers. Some of the research articles available particularly stress that both cooling methods have been used for research, and the results achieved were similar (e.g. “Whole-Body Cryotherapy Decreases the Levels of Inflammatory, Oxidative Stress, and Atherosclerosis Plaque Markers in Male Patients with Active-Phase Ankylosing Spondylitis in the Absence of Classical Cardiovascular Risk Factors”; Hindawi, Mediators of Inflammation, Volume 2018, Article ID 8592532).
Some differences exist, though.
The more even distribution of cold in cryo chambers changes the perception of the treatment – it feels colder in a relatively warmer environment. But the main difference between the two is the level of stimulation of the vagus nerve that goes down the neck from the back of the head. This nerve connects the brain stem with virtually all our internal organs, powers up the parasympathetic nervous system and controls unconscious body functions, as well as everything from keeping our heart rate constant to breathing and sweating. Exposure to cold enhances its activity; so, one thing to mention here: for the best result, the back of client’s neck should NOT stay high above the edge of the cryosauna used for the treatment. A hat that covers it does not help, either. With this in mind, people should simply choose the equipment that they have access to or preference for – there is never “one size fits all”.
Myth #4: “the dangers of nitrogen”. Instead of telling people how dangerous nitrogen is, we should be talking ONLY about one thing – the standards of providing a safe treatment which should involve keeping nitrogen vapor out of the client’s face to prevent inhaling. By no means clients should be told or allowed to “dive in” to also expose face – if somebody is doing it, still, it’s a disaster waiting to happen that will, unfortunately, harm ALL faithful treatment providers, regardless of the method of cooling they offer, no matter how much electric cooling proponents are trying to convince the public that they are the "good guys".
It needs to be mentioned that many nitrogen-cooled equipment manufacturers have already incorporated vapor inhaling precautions into their equipment, from extractors that prevent nitrogen vapor from getting out of the cabin (like Cryocab) or sensors that monitor the position of the client’s head (by Cryo Innovations) to simple collars. The possibility of liquid nitrogen entering the cabin has also been prevented.
The truth is that nitrogen-cooled equipment is considerably cheaper and growing in numbers faster than the alternatives. The ratio of electric cryochambers versus nitrogen-cooled equipment on the market is less than 1:10. If prospects are told to only trust equipment that does not use nitrogen, more than 90% of people interested get excluded from even trying. Is it what the “dangers of nitrogen” promoters are trying to achieve? This is one of the cases when the forest gets lost for the trees. All that treatment providers should care about is observing safety requirements every single time without ANY compromise.
As a final note, let’s briefly discuss the terminology in use.
It needs to be acknowledged that the field is still new. The terms are being adjusted on the go, and there are inconsistencies, as well as disagreements among involved experts.
More and more consistently, it’s distinguished between cryosauna (head outside) and cryochamber (walk-in).
At the same time, whole body cryotherapy keeps being applied to ALL fight-or-flight-initiating cryo devices, cryosaunas AND cryochambers, regardless of some sources insisting on using partial body cryotherapy for cryosaunas and whole body cryotherapy for cryochambers. This new term does not clarify matters much, though. It does NOT make communication easier, either, as partial body cryotherapy then gets confused with local applications of cold.
At the end of the day, it’s about the MEANING rather than the words – it should not be lost in the terminology fight that, again, shoots the cryotherapy industry participants in the foot, as it creates confusion rather than clarity. The TRUE CRITERION for the divide should be tricking the entire body into fight-or-flight (for whole or full body cryotherapy) vs cooling selected body parts (in local cryotherapy). Partial body cryotherapy still feels like a made-up term for marketing purposes. It has not found its place yet. IF it ever does, I don’t think it will happen any time soon.
My suggestion therefore is to be more strategic and to focus on growing the tribe of cryotherapy users by providing them with comprehensive explanation of the extreme cold impact process and its benefits.
Making people understand why cryotherapy may be a solution to their problems should be a much more powerful marketing tool than trying to convince them who is or is not providing “the only true cryo”.
The conversation with clients and prospects should be honest and based on facts, while we are all entitled to our own opinions. Let’s use them when choosing the equipment for the practice. The clients will then decide what experience they prefer. At the end of the day, cryotherapy is people’s business. The equipment is only a tool.
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