Local Entrepreneur Launches Rockville Cryotherapy Studio

Brandon Yu believes treatment provides health benefits even as FDA raises doubts


Brandon Yu, owner of the Thrive CryoStudio in Rockville, stands in front of his studio's cryotherapy chamber

Aaron Kraut

Cryotherapy, a treatment that involves standing in a freezing nitrogen-filled tank for up to three minutes, was once the province of professional athletes and Hollywood celebrities who swore by its ability to make their bodies feel rejuvenated.

As more cryotherapy treatment centers have opened for the general public across the country, local entrepreneur Brandon Yu said he experienced those benefits firsthand and then realized the potential business opportunity in opening his own cryotherapy studio.

On Saturday, Yu opened Thrive Cryostudio in one of the salon suites at Symmetry Salon Studios in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville.

The opening came just a few days before the Tuesday release of a consumer update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that declared cryotherapy a “cool trend that lacks evidence” behind claims it can address a number of conditions including fibromyalgia, chronic pain and arthritis.

But Yu, who began undergoing cryotherapy treatments last year after being diagnosed with tendonitis in his elbows and one of his knees, said Wednesday the effect of freezing much of his body has worked for him and is working for a client list that is growing in the studio’s first week.

“I felt euphoric. I felt loose,” Yu said. “It’s a fight or flight response. What your body does, you get into the chamber at negative 220 or 240 degrees and your body thinks you’re freezing. It draws blood from your peripheries into your internal organs. Your blood is being detoxed, enriched with red blood cells, oxygen and nutrients so when it goes back out, it will help attack the inflammation and attack that pain.”

Full-body cryotherapy involves stepping into cauldrons that convert liquid nitrogen into vapors that reach temperatures as low as negative 300 degrees. Sessions last no longer than three minutes and the tank is open at the top so a participant’s head sticks out.

At Thrive Cryostudio, those who go into the tank are given socks to cover their feet and gloves to cover their hands. All participants are given a blood pressure screening before treatment. Yu, a certified cryotherapist, said he had to turn away one potential client with high blood pressure.


A Thrive CryoStudio client undergoes the cryotherapy treatment, via Brandon Yu

Clients so far have included people with back pain and a man who has undergone treatment after working out at the gym.

Yu said he wasn’t surprised by anything in the FDA announcement, which was based on an informal review of medical literature available on the subject.

“It’s like any other treatment,” Yu said. “Everybody doesn’t react the same, but I haven’t had any negative experiences with it and no one I’ve worked with has.”

Yu quit his job as a sales manager for a local healthcare company three weeks ago. He acquired a cryotherapy machine, which can range in cost $45,000 to $60,000. With a silent financial partner, he opened Thrive and plans to open more locations at other Symmetry Salon Studios, including in Bethesda. Yu is offering a first-time client special of two sessions for $40. Other packages include three sessions for $120, 10 sessions for $300 and a monthly unlimited rate for $199 a month.

“I was traveling around the country in my old job and I noticed a huge trend in cryotherapy. It was opening basically in every major city. I saw this as a good business opportunity,” Yu said. “This is something I think can grow tremendously over time.”

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