Liza Anzellotti is a runner and CrossFitter. She also experiences chronic pain. Her husband, Dave Anzellotti, also does CrossFit and boot-camp workouts.
Both have found something they say helps to reduce their pain and speed up their recovery: whole-body cryotherapy.
“You basically get cold for three minutes, and you’d be amazed,” Dave Anzellotti said of the outcomes.
The Food and Drug Administration defines cryotherapy as the “super-cooling” of the body for therapeutic purposes. Applying ice packs to a sore back, for example, is a type of cryotherapy.
Whole-body cryotherapy involves exposing the body to vapors that reach ultra-low temperatures. The treatment requires being enclosed in a relatively confined spaced for two to four minutes, according to the FDA. How the body is exposed to the nitrogen vapors varies.
•Where: 3Six0 Fitness, 10410 N.E. Third Court, Building B, Vancouver.
•When: By appointment, 5 to 7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
•Cost: $30-$45 single use, $125-$200 for package of five.
•On the web:www.3six0fitness.com
At 3Six0 Fitness — the Salmon Creek gym that the Anzellottis own — the treatment entails standing in a cylinder enclosure. The head remains outside of the enclosure, while the rest of the body is exposed to temperatures as cold as 184 degrees below zero.
The Anzellottis initially brought the cryosauna to the gym in July to help its athletes with recovery. An addition to standard gym equipment, the facility offers boot-camp classes and personal training and is home to CrossFit Salmon Creek.
But as the Anzellottis and others began to use the cryotherapy sauna and see benefits, they saw the potential it had to help others in the community. In the last six months, they’ve had high school football players, an Olympic skier and motorcycle racer use the sauna, as well as other athletes training for marathons and triathlons.
Most people use the Cryosauna once or twice a week to help reduce pain and speed up recovery after strenuous workouts. The biggest benefits are seen after about 10 uses, Liza Anzellotti said.
“It really comes down to inflammation,” she said. “This just cuts down on inflammation.”
Claims of cryotherapy benefits range from reducing inflammation and relieving chronic pain to boosting metabolism and increasing collagen production and skin elasticity. Others say cryotherapy improves REM sleep, boosts energy levels and enhances the immune system.
But few studies have been done to prove or disprove the claims. The FDA has not approved the use of whole-body cryotherapy for the treatment of any medical conditions.
But plenty of people at 3Six0 Fitness, including the Anzellottis, believe in the benefits of regular whole-body cryotherapy. Liza Anzellotti does about five sessions per week — more than most people — because of her chronic pain, she said. Dave Anzellotti does one or two sessions each week.
In addition to pain relief, Liza Anzellotti said the sessions help her to sleep better.
The gym offers cryotherapy at three levels, each lasting three minutes. Level 1 — which is where everyone starts — bathes the person in vapors that bring the temperature down to minus-130 degrees Fahrenheit. Level 2 gets down to minus-166 degrees, and Level 3 drops to minus-184 degrees.
The temperature in the chamber continues to drop throughout the three-minute session, so the lowest temperature is typically reached with 30 to 45 seconds left in the session, Dave Anzellotti said. The session can be stopped at any time.
“It’s going to be uncomfortable; that’s the point,” he said. “But you don’t want the sensation of pain.”
Those receiving whole-body cryotherapy wear only their underwear, socks, booties and gloves inside the chamber. They turn their body every 30 seconds so one side isn’t directly exposed to the stream of nitrogen vapors filling the sauna for the duration of the session.
“One hundred percent of it is mental,” Liza Anzellotti said. “You can do anything for three minutes.”
The gym and the chamber have features in place for the safety of those receiving whole-body cryotherapy, Liza Anzellotti said.
She remains in the room the entire time the person is in the sauna and must respond to a timer every 27 seconds to prevent it from automatically turning off. The room in which the sauna is located has specialty ventilation, as well as a monitor to measure oxygen levels, she said.
A few other facilities in the Portland area offer whole-body cryotherapy. But as word about the practice continues to spread — professional athletes post about using it on social media and some sports teams have chambers in their facilities — the Anzellottis expect more amateur athletes taxing their bodies will give it a try.
“It’s starting to catch on,” Dave Anzellotti said.