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South Bay’s first cryotherapy spa opens in Manhattan Beach

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Cryo Wave employee Chelsea stands in the doorway of the cryo sauna as it’s operated by owner Paige Sullivan. Photo by Caroline Anderson

Cryo Wave employee Chelsea stands in the doorway of the cryo sauna as it’s operated by owner Paige Sullivan. Photo by Caroline Anderson

In February, the South Bay’s first cryotherapy facility, Cryo Wave, opened in a strip mall off Sepulveda Boulevard in Manhattan Beach.

For $65, customers can strip down to their undergarments and stand in a chamber cooled with liquid nitrogen to -110 to -145 degrees Celsius for up to three minutes.

Various benefits including reduced pain and improved athletic performance have been attributed to the treatment, which has become increasingly popular in the U.S. in recent years, although none have been approved by the FDA.

“People are always really nervous because it sounds so intolerable,” said Paige Sullivan, who owns the spa with two other South Bay residents, Alisa Eischen and Kelly Lynch. “But most people find it pleasurable. It’s uncomfortable while they’re in there, but they feel so great after, they enjoy coming.”

Sullivan, who grew up in Manhattan Beach and graduated from Mira Costa High School in 2002, wanted to build a facility in the South Bay after trying the treatment at a center in West Los Angeles to help with pain from orthopedic injuries.

“I went and did it and fell in love,” she said.

Cryo Wave’s clients range from “16-year-old high school students to 80-year-old arthritic individuals” and include LA Kings, NFL players and some former Lakers, according to Sullivan.

Redondo Beach resident Sean Maloney started coming before surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and has continued coming nearly every day for the past seven weeks. He hasn’t taken any pain medication since his surgery, and has recommended the treatment to friends. Though he didn’t know if the cryotherapy was solely responsible, he said it helped.

“I started getting a really positive response right away,” he said. “As long as I get a positive response, I’m going to continue to do it.”

Proponents say that the process works by reducing inflammation, like an ice pack.

“The body goes into a state of thermal shock,” said Sullivan. “Blood goes to the core and becomes oxygenated and nutrient-rich. It then courses through the extremities and flushes out lactic acid in the muscles.”

Cryotherapy made headlines last fall when a practitioner, who was using a chamber alone after hours, was found dead in Nevada. The coroner ultimately ruled she died of asphyxiation due to low oxygen. The incident raised the possibility that the government might start regulating the practice. But so far that hasn’t happened. Sullivan said it would be impossible for such a thing to happen at her facility. For one thing, the same person isn’t physically able to use and operate the machine at the same time, she said. For another, the chamber has sensors that automatically shut off the machine if the level of nitrogen rises above a safe level.  

On a recent Thursday afternoon, the business was busy with walk-ins. They stood in black robes with the Cryo Wave logo and socks, waiting for their turn in the cryo saunas and cryo chamber.

The chamber, which can fit up to four people at a time, is one of four in the country, Sullivan said, with the other three in West Hollywood, Woodland Hills and New Jersey. A storage unit with gloves, clogs, hats and surgical masks to prevent people from breathing in the nitrogen and expelling moisture sat outside of the chamber, which has three padded walls and a glass door.

The saunas are big, shoulder-height boxes with side doors that open outward. The client walks in and his head sticks out of the top as clouds of gas slip out like a science experiment.

As customers moved in and out of the locker rooms and machines, uptempo pop music played. Complimentary kombucha on tap and tangerines were displayed in a lounge area. The voice of an employee rang out as a man walked in.

“Have a good freeze, senor!” she called. ER

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