An investigation into the October 20, 2015, death of a cryotherapy worker in Las Vegas has concluded that a lack of oxygen is the main culprit in this tragic story. Chelsea Ake-Salvacion, a 24-year-old woman who worked at the Rejuvenice Cryotherapy spa, became unconscious during a cryotherapy treatment. Sadly, this made it impossible for her to get out of the treatment booth in time, and she ended up freezing and suffocating to death.
Cryotherapy is a controversial but popular spa practice that has been likened to an ice bath. However, early studies into this treatment have not found any conclusive evidence that it actually offers any functional recovery benefits. It is known that athletes who subject themselves to cryotherapy can experience short-term muscle pain relief, but ice packs are believed to be just as effective.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about this cryotherapy accident is that it sheds light on the ridiculously low temperatures and oxygen levels that people pay to put their body through. When Ake-Salvacion stepped into the cryotherapy chamber, the temperature would have been at least -166 degrees Fahrenheit. It is likely that the settings on her treatment caused the temperature to plunge to an astounding -319 degrees Fahrenheit for part of a planned four minute session.
It is important to note that the astoundingly subzero temperatures maintained inside of a whole-body cryotherapy chamber are colder than anything found naturally on earth. To put this into perspective, the moon is only 68 degrees cooler when it reaches its absolute coldest point.
As if this was not dangerous enough, people who willingly step into these spa chambers also take the same risk of blacking out that ultimately caused Ake-Salvacion’s death. This is due to the fact that the air inside a cryotherapy chamber is a mere 5 percent oxygen, which stands in stark contrast to the 21 percent that we are exposed to on a regular basis.
Tragically, it appears that Ake-Salvacion did not follow the spa’s safety guidelines that could have potentially prevented her from dying. According to numerous media reports, Rejuevenice Cryotherapy requires all whole-body treatment to happen during normal business hours so that a worker can be outside the chamber.
State Occupational Safety and Health investigators have said that Ake-Salvacion should not have used the cryotherapy chamber when the business was closed.
Ake-Salvacion apparently chose to give herself a cryotherapy treatment after everyone else had gone home for the night. The medical examiner determined that she was inside the chamber for approximately 10 hours before someone discovered the horrible cryotherapy accident. Interestingly enough, the coroner also stated that Ake-Salvacion died within a few seconds as a result of asphyxiation.
This makes it unclear if the cryotherapy accident happened because Ake-Salvacion began the four minute treatment without supervision or if something was wrong with the chamber that could have led to a similar tragedy either way.
Advocates for cryotherapy believe that this type of treatment can do everything from relax sore muscles to burn hundreds of calories. Although cryotherapy is not FDA approved for any health-related treatments, Rejuevenice’s website claims that their sessions also offer numerous health benefits such as improved blood circulation, accelerated tissue healing and a reduction in the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
Ultimately, it is critical for consumers who undergo spa treatments to develop a good understanding of exactly what they are paying for. In this example, people should be aware that even if they do receive some short-term pain relief benefits, there has not yet been any scientifically backed evidence to support all of the other cryotherapy claims.