Los Angeles Fitness: IV Drips, Vitamin Shots, Daily Freeze At -292 Degrees

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Cryotherapy, a freezing treatment used by elite athletes such as LeBron James and Michael Phelps, is just one of the pricey injury recovery and prevention strategies that are exploding in popularity in Los Angeles — despite a lack of scientific evidence in many cases to support their efficacy.

Cryotherapy alone is expected to grow to a $5.6-billion global industry by 2024, up from $2.5 billion in 2016, according to Grand View Research, a market research and consulting company.

The remedies — which also include IV therapy drips, vitamin-infused booster shots, hyperbaric oxygen chambers and compression therapy — cater to workout fanatics who insist an old-fashioned ice pack and a Gatorade won’t suffice.

They’re now being offered at so-called wellness boutiques dedicated to administering the treatments; medical offices, weight loss clinics and traditional spas are also getting in on the craze.

Drip Doctors in downtown Los Angeles, for example, offers more than two dozen intravenous drips and booster shots to increase energy, promote faster recovery and aid in weight loss.

There’s an $89 Hydroboost IV vitamin drip “perfect for those who need instant hydration,” a $30 Supercharged booster shot for customers who are looking for “an intense burst of oomph” or a wallet-busting $220 Limitless IV vitamin drip.

That one is billed as “an ‘all in one’ concoction” that will “optimize performance, neurological function, immune support, detox, and keep you feeling rejuvenated.”

Skeptics contend that there is little benefit to IV drip therapy for people who are essentially healthy, saying people are capable of hydrating sufficiently and getting the nutrients they need through food. They instead point to a placebo effect.

“This is Los Angeles after all, where anything that promises to make you feel better becomes the latest fad”

“This is Los Angeles after all, where anything that promises to make you feel better becomes the latest fad,” said Dr. Michael Gottlieb, a specialist in internal medicine who practices in Los Angeles.

True believers, however, counter with the argument that IV therapy works and beats dependence on painkillers. The global market for IV tubing and related equipment is expected to grow at a steady rate of just under 4% to more than $1.2 billion by 2025, according to a new report from Persistence Market Research.

Even hyperbaric oxygen chambers have gone beyond the traditional use of saving the lives of deep-sea divers who surface too quickly. Sessions claim to boost energy, reduce pain and inflammation, and speed injury recovery times, and they can cost $350 to $450 per treatment.

Infusio describes itself as “a sports optimization medical clinic specializing in integrative medical and cutting-edge stem cell therapy.”

Other fitness recovery businesses tout compression therapy. At HM Sports Performance and Recovery in Santa Monica, customers slip into pairs of bulky NormaTec boots that extend all the way to the upper thighs.

At $45 for a 30-minute session (or $350 for a package of 10), customers “recover faster between trainings and after performance by increasing blood flow and flushing metabolites from the workout out of the body,” according to the company website.

Industry professionals say the fitness recovery fad stems from the rise in more intense workouts, especially in cities like L.A. The two are so closely linked that many recovery boutiques have opened up next door to fitness studios, and some cryotherapy businesses are now offering appointments on popular workout app ClassPass.

But some of the unconventional therapies, while no doubt trendy among the bootcamp-spinning-yoga-kombucha crowd, have been heavily criticized by those who doubt the purported benefits and say providers are making misleading and potentially dangerous claims.

A consumer update by the Food and Drug Administration in 2016 deemed cryotherapy — now offered at boutiques in Santa Monica, Beverly Grove and Costa Mesa — “a ‘cool’ trend that lacks evidence, poses risks.” It said despite claims that cryo helps treat conditions like Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, stress, anxiety or chronic pain, “this so-called ‘treatment’ hasn’t been proven to do any of these things.”

Some studies suggest one can get as much localized benefit from a simple ice pack. But a study conducted by the France-based National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance focused mainly on sports injuries and found that whole body cryotherapy reduced inflammation and aches, and aided in faster muscle injury recovery.

Less controversial are stretch labs, where customers pay for one-on-one stretch sessions. They’re designed to help gain more mobility and flexibility than one can get on his or her own.
Costa Mesa-based StretchLab, for example, charges $35 for 25 minutes with a “flexologist” and $65 for 50 minutes. Monthly rates range from $119 to $229 depending on the length of the sessions.

Hyperice Inc. is an Irvine company that designs and sells a $199 vibrating thigh roller, as well as heat and compression devices for legs, shoulders and backs for $249 each. The products have been used by basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin, skier Lindsey Vonn and more than 200 professional and collegiate sports teams including the Lakers, Clippers, UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans.

(Source: Los Angeles Times)

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