Many athletes, amateur and professional alike, swear by cryotherapy. The three-minute sessions, which take place in a chamber cooled to a chilly -220 degrees Fahrenheit, do wonders for muscle recovery, never mind the ambiguity of the scientific literature. It's like an ice bath, only better.
So, what's the downside? At $75 bucks or so for a session, it's a bit costlier than a tub of ice water. Then, there's the not insignificant danger of walking away with a frozen limb.
That's what local hairstylist Alix Gunn says happened to her on the evening before Thanksgiving 2011 when she visited CryoUSA in Snider Plaza with a few friends and coworkers. When she walked out, she had a "literally frozen arm," she says in a lawsuit she filed against the business last month.
CryoUSA, the "official recovery system for CrossFit Dallas Central," doesn't limit itself to soothing sore muscles. Its website says Whole Body Cryotherapy can be used as a treatment for conditions like fibromyalgia and arthritis, to tighten and beautify skin and as a way to "increase in overall health and beauty."
Gunn says she followed staff's instructions, disrobing as they asked and donning the socks and gloves she was provided. But the gloves were wet, and by the end of her three minutes inside the chamber, Gunn "felt a strange and powerful feeling in her dominant left arm." Specifically, the arm "looked and felt as if it was frozen."
As the arm thawed, Gunn's arm became painfully swollen. Later, excruciating blisters appeared. At Thanksgiving the next day, her family urged her to go to the hospital, where she was diagnosed and treated for third-degree burns.
Frostbite isn't particularly uncommon side effect of cryotherapy. It's the subject of numerous medical journal articles and is prevalent enough to become fodder for trial lawyers trolling for clients. Two years ago, frostbitten feet hampered sprinter Justin Gatlin's hopes of winning the 100-meter dash at the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2011.
All the more reason to be careful. In her lawsuit, Gunn says Whole Body Cryotherapy wasn't. They were the ones who told her to put on the wet gloves, after all.
Gunn is seeking unspecified damages.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.