Cryotherapy: Freezing Away Pain

Most of us have come to Florida to get AWAY from the cold; so why are some paying money to freeze themselves?  According to one top tournament player, it is to rehab his body.

The New “Ice Bath”

It is common to see the pictures of pro athletes submersed in an ice bath after a grueling game; so, is it so different to subject your body to cryotherapy … stepping into a freezing container at 160 degrees below zero for two to four minutes?

At the Meadows tournament in February, Steve Lunsford played an over-three-hour singles final and then changed clothes and played our doubles final … and then had to drive another three hours across the state of Florida to get to his home in Stuart.  This is his report…

Recovery Time

“If ever anyone was in need of recovery it was my 75+ year old body.  And yes, I did begin to cramp up on the drive back to Stuart. I had to stop the car about halfway and walk around for a bit before continuing.

“On Saturday morning, I went to our local cryotherapy outlet, and did three minutes at negative 160 degrees.  I felt immediately “refreshed” after the session, slept great Saturday night, did some light activity on Sunday, and by Monday was back on the court for a brisk hour long hit with one of my practice partners here.  One other symptom that I had noticed Friday night was a tightness in my right shoulder, and by Sunday it was gone also.

University of Kansas

“A quick background note as to how I got started with this. I was vaguely aware of this therapy, but focused in on it while visiting with the University of Kansas tennis coach during a visit to our home there this past December. He had been looking for an alternative recovery method for ice baths for his athletes.

“Several university sports programs and professional teams have started using cryotherapy equipment for this purpose.  He had tried it at the local place in Lawrence and asked me if I would give it a go and give him some feedback. He thought that it gave him some relief to an ailing knee, albeit temporarily.  I agreed to do so and did my first session in mid-December.

“I knew I could not tolerate an ice bath, and having lived in Chicago (twice) and Connecticut, I also knew that I had had enough of being cold. That is why I live in South Florida, after all.  But I agreed to give it a go, but asked the therapist to start me at the “warmest” temperature, which was negative 130 degrees.  I was pleasantly surprised that it is a “dry cold”.  I have felt much worse walking around the loop in Chicago in minus 60 degrees wind chill with all body surfaces wrapped in winter clothing.

“Before we left Lawrence in early January, I went again, and felt that it helped me feel better than normal while making the 1400 mile drive back to Stuart.

“I believe this has value for me, and the pricing in Lawrence and Stuart is very reasonable, and about half the price of an hour massage.”


For more on this subject, here is a link to an article in US NEWS.

For your information, there is a cryotherapy outlet here in Naples on Pine Ridge Road and I MAY be brave enough to test it out!

Anyone have personal experience with this treatment (or other similar ones)?

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5 thoughts on “Cryotherapy: Freezing Away Pain


    Above is a link to an interesting article regarding whole body cryotherapy. As it is nearly impossible to do a double blind controlled study of this type of cryotherapy, we are dependent upon testimonials to it’s success, or failure. Much of the success may be attributed to the placebo effect, which can be very compelling, but is not scientific.

    Doc, the article really even questions the value of icing an injury. what do you think? thanks, george

  2. I’ve discovered in exacting Scientific Design Engineering Matrix testing that several ice cold brews administered orally immediately after tennis matches has a better than 99.5% positive effect on all of my injuries. I’m still in the final phase of data aquisition, but expect similar results.

    Jeff, do you need a research assistant? George

  3. George, Even though we have always said “ice, compression, and elevation” is the way to treat an injury, unfortunately the research does not support this any more. This is especially true when used as a recovery tool for intense play/workouts or long bouts of exercise. Although ice does decrease swelling, after 48 hours, it is not longer an effective tool for recovery and rehabilitation. The norm in most athletic training room and sports medicine facility is to use mild heat in connection with the use of compression and elevation for recovery and is still evidence-base supported . However, as pointed out by Michael, testimonials do support some evidence of improving recovery using cryotherapy. The question is does the cost and limited access to these types of facilities warrant the value? At this point, there has been no evidence of contraindication. Therefore, “if it helps, do it” theory applies.

    Larry, my world is turning upside down… ice doesn’t help?! George

  4. With regard to icing an injury soon after it’s occurrence, there are studies to show the benefits of icing, but for no longer than 30 minutes.
    The purpose of the icing is to prevent swelling caused by leakage of tissue fluids (and/or blood).
    After 10-30 minutes, heat should be applied to increase circulation and help the body reabsorb the leaked fluids.
    Icing does help acute injuries because it also provides a numbing effect to the injured site.

    Michael, ok, some order is restored! thanks, george

  5. I liked your comment on Cryotherpy because my favorite pain reliever to spray on or roll on is CryoDerm. Have let many try it as we are going to play tennis because they complain about pain in shoulder or knee or ? . They are amazed at the results. It’s almost instant. I just found that Amazon now carries it. A 3 oz roll on is about $8 (at chiropractors it runs $16-$20. One caution is that there is cold and hot CryoDerm. Put some hot on player once before a match and when he got in the sun, it was so hot that he had to call a medical and wash it off (At least he didn’t feel the original pain). Stay with the cold therapy. So much better than BioFreeze and the other competitors.
    Disclosure: Have no stock in the company.

    Jim, sounds interesting! thanks. george

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