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New technology extreme cold to treat chronic pain

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Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

By Lacey Darrow

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of technician Angelo Alvarez. The story below has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.


SYDNEY SCHUMAN/CRONKITE NEWS: Extreme cold is now being used to treat chronic pain. Reporter Lacey Darrow takes us to Scottsdale to show us how it works.

LACEY DARROW/CRONKITE NEWS: This machine may look scary to some, but for others like Rochelle Kiggins


LACEY DARROW/CRONKITE NEWS: After being referred by her doctor for chronic pain, Kiggins came to the American Center for Biological Medicine. She’s trying a different approach at pain management called cryotherapy. It’s a form of cold therapy using modern-day technology.

ANGELO ALVAREZ/COLD THERAPY TECHNICIAN: Cold therapy has been around for thousands of years. Hippocrates used cold therapy as one of his healing methods.

LACEY DARROW/CRONKITE NEWS: The patient enters a cryosauna wearing protective gloves and socks. The machine fills with a mist of liquid nitrogen gas. The process takes just two to three minutes.

ANGELO ALVAREZ/COLD THERAPY TECHNICIAN: It can get as cold as anywhere from 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

ROCHELLE KIGGINS/PATIENT: I mean, it’s cold, but it’s not unbearable. It doesn’t burn, it doesn’t sting.

LACEY DARROW/CRONKITE NEWS: The process of moving the body to and from a hypothermic state improves blood flow which helps treat different conditions.

ANGELO ALVAREZ/COLD THERAPY TECHNICIAN: Sleep insomnia, pain management and depression.

LACEY DARROW/CRONKITE NEWS: Although cryotherapy has been known to have very minimal side effects, Alvarez warns that in order to avoid burns.

ANGELO ALVAREZ/COLD THERAPY TECHNICIAN: The technician has to know what they are doing.

LACEY DARROW/CRONKITE NEWS: But for Kiggins, the minimal risk is worth the rewards.

ROCHELLE KIGGINS/PATIENT: So, when I started coming I had a pain level of about 8-9, 24/7. And within a couple treatments I was down to about a 5-6.