Healing at -200 degrees

Brad Iverson-Long//November 3, 2011

Healing at -200 degrees

Brad Iverson-Long//November 3, 2011

Dr. Jason Watson stands next to the cryotherapy machine in his Boise chiropractic office. Photo by Brad Iverson-Long.

Boise chiropractor Dr. Jason Watson is hoping to heal patients and set his practice apart by offering a super-cold treatment called whole body cryotherapy.

The therapy has been used by topflight athletes in hopes of speeding recuperation from tough workouts. It’s a more advanced and more intensive version of an ice pack or ice bath, intended to reduce pain and inflammation.

Watson recently purchased a CryoSauna for his practice, Active Health and Wellness. Patients take off most of their clothes and step into the center of the large steel cylinder CryoSauna. A platform raises them so their head is not in the cylinder, which then fills with nitrogen gas at temperatures dropping below negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Cryosauna sessions last two to three minutes. Watson and the machine makers say the process speeds healing  by triggering the heart to pump nutrient-rich blood back out into the body.

“It speeds the body’s healing, and everything we do here is trying to activate your own internal healing medicine,” Watson said. He paid close to $50,000 for the cryotherapy machine, which is made in Ukraine, and started treating patients on Oct. 31. The first session for a new patient costs $87.

Whole body cryotherapy has been around for several decades and is more common in Europe than in the United States. A Welsh rugby player recently referred to cryotherapy as an “evil sauna” that helped his team train harder. Watson said there are less than 20 such machines in the U.S., with many of them catering to athletes. “Nike has one (in Oregon) for some Olympic runners,” he said.

There is little scientific research on cryotherapy, though there’s no evidence that it is harmful.  Two recent studies published in Scandinavian medical journals and found on the National Institutes of Health websites found, respectively, that it helps with anti-inflammation and that it may not reduce muscle soreness after heavy exercise.

Watson said he likes cryotherapy because it’s quick and replaces other treatments, including ultrasound, laser and electric therapy, that only treat part of the body. “Everybody wants a ‘microwave effect;’ they want an immediate effect,” he said, saying cryotherapy will be part of his treatment process. “In physical medicine, you don’t always get that.”

Watson said he has an exclusive agreement with the Texas company that sold him the CryoSauna that prohibits another machine within 25 miles. He said he expects it will be several years before another machine comes to Idaho. Watson hopes to treat Boise State University football players and other athletes to generate positive word-of-mouth publicity.

 “The more patients I can help and the faster I can help them, the better it is for my business,” Watson said.