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during the entire treatment. We stay right here

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erie Coolest Place Chillin

Cryotherapy can help some people's symptoms where other medicine fails.

By Heather Cass / Contributing writer

In December of 2015 at the age of 54, Karen Henning of North East had reached a breaking point in her struggle with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue and sleep, memory and mood issues.

“I was in so much pain,” Henning said. “It was ruining my life. I remember pleading with God to give me a sign because I just could not live like that anymore.”

That day, she went to her job as a teacher’s aide in the North East School District and a coworker asked her if she had ever heard of cryotherapy, the process of using extremely cold temperatures (-170 to -270 degrees) to treat injury. She had read that it could help with autoimmune diseases.

“I thought, well, there’s my sign,” Henning said.

The nearest cryotherapy center was in Akron, Ohio. Henning booked a session and traveled there with her husband, Dave.

“After the first session, I noticed some relief,” she said. “After eight sessions, my fibromyalgia went into remission.”

Amazed at the results, Henning casually mentioned to her husband that they should open a cryotherapy center in Erie so they could help others.

“Little did she know that I have always wanted to own my own business,” said Dave Henning, who jumped into researching the possibilities.

The Hennings began visiting various cryotherapy centers within driving distance and talking to the owners, trying to learn about the business.

On May 1, the Hennings opened Lake Effect Cryotherapy, 3545 W. 12th St. Dubbed by the Hennings as “the coolest place in town,” LEC has seen a steady flow of business as evidenced by the dozens of photos of clients pasted on several walls.

“It gives people something to look at while they are in the tank,” Dave Henning said. “Takes their mind off of the cold.”

How it works and what it does

Hot and cold therapy for recovery purposes has been around for centuries. Remember when all the big athletes were doing ice baths? Cryotherapy is said to mimic the benefits of an ice bath — reducing inflammation and muscle pain — without the damaging effects that can occur when the skin is submerged in freezing cold water.

In cryotherapy, the whole body (except for the head) is exposed to cold, dry air vapors that reach triple-digit sub-zero temperatures. Because it is a dry cold, it reduces the body’s temperature without compromising the skin or core temperature, allowing the superficial skin temperature to return to normal while deeper tissue and muscle temperatures remain cold for increased results.

NBA superstars such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are big fans of cryotherapy, and many professional sports teams, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, have their own cryosaunas for their athletes.

Researchers in Europe have been developing and refining whole body cryotherapy for nearly 30 years and have found it to have no negative side effects, unless the person has one of the several medical conditions.

That said, it is not approved as a medical treatment by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Therefore, it is not covered by health insurance.

At LEC, a first-time visit is $24. After that, you can buy a variety of packages that vary from $85 for the 3-pack to an unlimited-visit membership for $300 a month. Group rates, as well as student and veteran discounts, are available, too.

I tried it

One of the first things I noticed when I walked into LEC on a Friday evening was three gleaming tanks of nitrogen.

“I’ve had warts frozen off with liquid nitrogen and I know it stings,” I said to Dave.

He assured me that it would not feel like having a wart frozen and that the cold is only slightly discomforting near the end of the three-minute treatment.

“We tell clients to march around in there, turn around, jog, if you want,” he said. “It helps if you’re moving around and not standing still in one spot.”

After signing the required medical waivers, Dave showed me to the changing room and instructed me to remove my clothes and put on a pair of gloves, socks, slippers, and a robe, which were all provided. The gloves and socks prevent your digits from frostbite. Men are required to wear underwear or boxers as well to protect their particular extremities.

Then, I stepped into the sauna and Dave raised the floor until my head was above the tank. At that point, I removed my robe and handed it to Dave, who remained outside the tank, talking with me, during the entire treatment.

“We stay right here,” he said. “So if at any time you want to stop, we can do so.”

If it feels weird to talk to strangers while you’re naked and freezing, let me assure you that Dave and Karen radiate warmth. I had no trouble making small talk with Dave, whose calm demeanor and affable nature put me at ease.

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