Photo: Kristy Shepperd, co-owner of Ottawa Cryotherapy, demonstrates a cryosauna. (Devyn Barrie photo)
A few weeks ago, Ottawa Cryotherapy opened their doors inside the Complete Hockey Development Centre at 145 Iber Road. The clinic’s eponymous feature is an uncommon form of therapy that uses liquid nitrogen to expose users to cold air around -140 to -170 C to soothe their muscles.
It’s co-owned by Kristy Shepperd, a certified meditation coach from Kanata and Lindsay Mullen, a laser therapist.
Cryotherapy is relatively rare in Canada because of government regulations making it difficult to buy a cryosauna unit. Health Canada recommends against using them.
We met Shepperd a little while ago to find out more.
Q: Tell us about yourself and Lindsay.
A: I’m Christy Shepherd, from Kanata! I’m just a regular mom. I’ve always had an interest in the health and lifestyle industry. When I was approached to join Lindsay for this venture it was the perfect fit. My background is a certified meditation coach. Lindsay’s a laser therapist… I met through her clinic, I was a patient.
Q: What does cryotherapy do?
A: It’s an upgraded ice bath, is how we explain it. Basically, the athletes like it because it’s replacing that ice bath technique at a different level. Two and a half minutes, dry, in and out. A lot of athletes in our building prefer it. And that’s our biggest clientele. It’s basically to help inflammation.
Q: If it goes down to -170 C, wouldn’t your skin freeze?
A: It goes one millimeter to the epidermis layer. Instead of these athletes sitting in an ice bath for half an hour, bone chilled, they’re in here for two and a half minutes. It’s enough to warn your body ‘Hey! It’s getting really cold.” But not enough to give you hypothermia.
Q: Who would use cryotherapy?
A: We actually have a really wide variety of clients, from a senior citizen with arthritis to a 16-year old that has just been training for their various (hockey) level and needs to have a bit of relief for their next workout.
Q: What other stuff do you do?
A: (We have) the NormaTec, which is compression therapy. We have our chiropractor, Dr. Cooper, (who) also can assess you if you’d like the cryotherapy under your chiropractor benefits, because it is covered. We have our nutritionist and we have our registered massage therapist. And we also offer the laser therapy with Lindsay.
Q: What’s different about your clinic from other physiotherapy clinics?
A: The cryotherapy, the location and just the vibe. We’re a very relaxed environment, kindof a lounge feel. The NormaTec is also very new to Canada, only the pro (hockey) teams have that.
Q: Why Stittsville?
A: I’m from the west end, I know the area well. When we started looking around we were originally thinking Canadian Tire Centre. But when we started looking down here we noticed there was cross fit, gymnastics and then this facility itself (Complete Hockey Development Centre) hosts a lot of athletes. This was the perfect fit.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Icy reception from Health Canada
The federal government agency issued an alert in 2015 about several clinics operating in Ontario and Quebec that were said to be using illegally imported cryosauna units which may be unsafe to use. Mullen says the unit they are using was grandfathered in prior to Health Canada’s latest regulations, but acknowledged the agency sent them a letter requesting they not use the device.
“Health Canada has been a pain in my ass,” Mullen said. “They sent us a letter saying we can still run our business, they just advise we don’t do it.”
A Health Canada spokesperson said the agency regulates the sale of cryosaunas, but it’s up to provinces to regulate their usage.
“Activities related to the operation or use of devices in a health care setting fall under the practice of medicine and are regulated by the provinces and territories,” said Rebecca Purdy in an emailed statement. “Based on information available to Health Canada, cryosauna devices are considered Class III medical devices and as such would require an evaluation of safety and effectiveness prior to being authorized for sale in Canada.”
Purdy said Health Canada has not yet authorized the sale of any such device.
Shepperd said Ottawa Cryotherapy makes no medical claims for their device and are not using it as a medical instrument. It is only intended to reduce inflammation and is safe to use, she said.
“We comply with Health Canada,” Shepperd said.