Cold therapy is growing in popularity across America as an effective form of pain relief, detox, and overall health. Russian native Larissa Steinruck became a firm believer in the benefits of cryotherapy after suffering a back injury that anti-inflammatory medication could not help. As she searched for alternative methods for pain and inflammation relief for her chronic lower back pain, Steinruck discovered whole body cryotherapy, and after a month of treatment, 90 percent of her pain was gone. She was such an advocate for cryotherapy and its effective non-invasive technique that she opened her own spa, Arctic Healing Cryo, after working eight years as a fitness trainer.
HFR sat down with Larissa Steinruck to discuss the cryotherapy process, its benefits, and how it can help with weight loss.
HFR: For our readers who don’t know about cryotherapy, can you explain the process?
Steinruck: Whole body cryotherapy allows your body to access and release valuable naturally occurring biochemicals that are active in relieving pain, reducing inflammation, increasing metabolism, deoxidizing and ridding the body of detrimental toxins. Before you start the treatment, you will be asked to remove your clothes, shoes, and jewelry while leaving your undergarments on. You will be given a pair of socks, gloves, shoes and a towel to wrap yourself in. Once you get into the chamber you will hand the towel to your therapist. The chamber is cooled with nitrogen gas. You will be asked not to inhale nitrogen gas by keeping your chin up and slowly turn to ensure an even cold distribution on your body. The floor of the cryosauna is adjusted so your neck and head are exposed. The temperature in the chamber starts dropping gradually, reaching a low of -184 degrees. The whole treatment takes anywhere from two to three minutes. The extreme cold sends electrical impulses to the central nervous system indicating the body must prepare to survive. This activates the body’s defense mechanism and the blood rushes to vital organs to protect them from extreme cold. Now that the body has transported the blood to the core, the blood begins to be enriched with oxygen, collagen, erythrocytes and other beneficial nutrients during the hyper-production period. Vasodilation begins once you have exited the chamber. During this time, your body is transporting the new nutrient-dense blood into your skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue.
HFR: What are the health benefits of this process?
Steinruck: Benefits of whole body cryotherapy include: inflammation inhibition, chronic pain reduction, faster recovery after surgery or injury, athletic recovery, anti-aging, better sleep, stress reduction, mood elevation, weight loss, collagen production, and reduction in anxiety and depression. Cryotherapy improves skin conditions associated with eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. Multiple studies suggest that cold treatments prevent cancer and dementia. People who suffer from migraine headaches have noticed a decline in intensity and recurrence of episodes when doing cryotherapy regularly.
HFR: You mentioned that cryotherapy helps athletic recovery and muscle repair. Can you explain further?
Steinruck: Inflammatory processes can be initiated in the muscles as a result of damage to the muscle fibers sustained during and after major physical exertion, especially with endurance sports. This may manifest itself as painful swelling or restriction of muscular function and may be accompanied by increases in various inflammatory parameters. The positive results of whole-body cryotherapy on chronic inflammatory joint diseases, and particularly the reductions in inflammatory parameters, have spawned investigations into a potential influence of whole body cryo applications on muscular inflammation.
If high physical exertion is combined with cold exposure (while the exertion is taking place or over several days thereafter), the concentration of pro-inflammatory elements called leukins increases significantly. This means that inflammation can be effectively reduced in muscles after high physical exertion when cold exposure is applied. The result is a protective effect against inflammation, which can reduce injury of the muscle fibers and shorten recovery times.
HFR: Are there different types of machines? Which type do you use?
Steinruck: Yes there are two types of cryotherapy treatments. One is in a cryosauna and the other is in a cryochamber. A cryosauna maintains the participant’s head outside the cryo machine during the session. The cryo-user is exposed to the nitrogen vapor from only the neck down (hands are covered by gloves and feet are covered by socks and boots). A cryotherapy chamber is similar to a walk-in freezer. It is a room that exposes the entire body to the cold temperatures. The client steps into the chamber wearing a respiratory mask, socks, boots, gloves, undergarments and a headband.
At our cryotherapy spa, we offer cryo treatments in a cryosauna called “Impact,” the safest and best on the market that is manufactured in the United States.
HFR: Some sources are claiming that cryotherapy is the answer to all illnesses. What is your take on that?
Steinruck: It must be noted that whole body cryotherapy is not a cure-all treatment. It should be used as an addition to physical therapy to assist in achieving the therapeutic goal. It is not a substitute for other proven therapies even if, as experience and studies have shown, a reduction in drug consumption can also often be achieved upon its application. Whole body cryotherapy is primarily pain-alleviating and anti-inflammatory. It affects blood circulation and metabolism in the skeletal muscles and has a performance-optimizing effect. Whole body cryotherapy improves general well being as well as general mobility and joint function in up to 60% of the treated cases.
HFR: On which illnesses does cryo have the most positive effect?
Steinruck: Whole body cryotherapy now occupies a firm position in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The success of treatment has now been confirmed by a whole range of clinical studies. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronically progressing illness which is not yet possible to cure despite all the advances that have been made in its therapy. The goal of cryo treatment is to achieve a decrease in disease intensity in order to halt or delay its progression.
HFR: Can cryo help with weight loss? If so, how?
Steinruck: Yes. In a full body cryotherapy session, as the skin is exposed to extreme temperature, the body signals the brain to go into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. As a result, metabolism increases rapidly to produce heat to fight sub-zero temperature. This process is called cold thermogenesis. This is the natural way the human body produces heat and ultimately burns fat. Weight loss occurs due to a combination of an increase in metabolic rate and calories burned while in the chamber and in the 48 hours after.
HFR: Cryo is being promoted as part of beauty regimens and facials. How does that work?
Steinruck: Studies show that cryotherapy stimulates collagen production. With multiple sessions, you can see an improvement in your skin texture. Fine lines, wrinkles and the appearance of cellulite are minimized, leaving your skin looking fresh, plump and younger.
HFR: Who can benefit more from cryotherapy, young people or seniors?
Steinruck: Both age groups can equally benefit from whole body cryotherapy due to the vast array of health benefits it has on your body. Whole body cryotherapy is utilized to prevent the onset of a disease. It can assist cardiovascular function, muscular performance, psychophysical regeneration and the generation of positive emotions. Along with that, daily whole-body cryotherapy treatments reduce chronic pain associated with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, bekhterev’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis, to name a few.
HFR: What are the minimum and maximum ages for cryo?
Steinruck: Although the general rule is that there is no age limit for whole body cryotherapy, some age-dependent aspects still need to be considered.
Cryotherapy is to be excluded with babies (under 1 year). Amongst toddlers (2-3 years old) reservations should be practiced. The duration of exposure should not exceed one minute.
For children ages 4 to 6, the stay in the cryo chamber can be extended to 2 minutes.
School children and young adolescents can be treated with cold more or less as adults. Also, the whole body cryotherapy of “older people,” (individuals over 60 years of age) requires some considerations.
HFR: Do you need a medical release to do cryo?
Steinruck: Generally, we don’t require a medical release from our clients, but we always encourage clients with certain health conditions to consult their doctor.
HFR: Where did cryo originate?
Steinruck: The application of cold for therapeutic purposes is an old procedure. Doctors in ancient Greece were already using cold to treat pains. Today cold is used in the most varied of forms for local treatments, such as inflammatory processes, tissue swelling and acute and chronic pain states. Unlike a local cold application, whole body cryotherapy is a new procedure which was developed around 1980 in Japan and is now widely practiced in Europe.
HFR: For you to start a business in cryo, you must really believe in it. What was it that made you develop a passion for it?
Steinruck: Yes, I am a strong believer in cold therapy. I grew up in Siberia, Russia. After growing up in a cold climate, I have learned how important it is to build resilience to cold for your overall health. But really, I suffered a back injury that convinced me that cold is the panacea for all. To ease my back pain, I took an anti-inflammatory medication and muscle relaxers. They only helped temporarily. I started researching on how I could reduce the inflammation in my body the natural way, without relying on medication. When I tried whole body cryotherapy for a month, my back pain went away! I fell in love with the overall great feeling cryotherapy gave me. After the session, I always feel rejuvenated, energized and happy.
HFR: Tell us a bit about your philosophy in running your business.
Steinruck: I opened my business with one goal in mind, to help people heal their bodies the natural way, prevent ill health and promote well-being. I am a strong believer in preventive care. I believe that cold therapy is the future, and with time, more and more people will realize that taking care of their bodies to prevent diseases is the way to live.
HFR: Tell us how you stay fit. What does your diet consist of?
Steinruck: Being physically and emotionally fit is very important to me. Living a well-balanced life helps me to stay grounded, happy, passionate, healthy and positive. That makes it a lot easier to be successful at everything I do. Along with my workout routine that consists of yoga, weight training, biking, hiking and rollerblading, I also practice mindfulness. Daily meditation helps me to stay calm in stressful situations. I eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of lean proteins and healthy carbohydrates. Doing whole-body cryotherapy four to five times a week keeps my immune system strong and gives me a lot of energy. It also helps with a deeper and more restful sleep so I can be more productive and focused throughout the day.
HFR: Is there anything else our readers should know about cryo?
Steinruck: Whole Body Cryotherapy is a safe and very well tolerated physical therapeutic procedure with a low interruption rate. Side effects are extremely rare as long as the indications and contraindications are strictly observed.