GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- There's a new wellness trend that's gaining in popularity, where people get into a chamber that can get down to 180 degrees below zero.
The bone-rattling cold is said to have a lot of benefits, according to enthusiasts of the therapy. It is said to speed up muscle recovery, reduce inflammation, fix joint pain, improve circulation, relieve anxiety and depression, elevate mood, boost the immune system, and even burn 500 to 800 calories a session.
That’s only if you’re brave enough to get in.
The black chamber looks like some transportation device from "Star Trek." A misty white fog spilling over the top makes you feel like you’re in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video. Once you step into the chamber, you realize you’re definitely not in a music video; rather, your body goes into survival mode.
Cryotherapy was invented in the 70s by a Japanese doctor, Toshima Yamauchi, to treat arthritis patients. The treatment gained popularity in Europe, and now it’s picking up popularity in the United States and in West Michigan, where Polar Brrr Cryo has opened.
Cryotherapy isn’t approved by the FDA yet. In fact, they warn against frostbite, burns, and eye injuries.
It is considered a form of alternative medicine. The theory behind it is similar to the old fashioned ice bath, according to Chase McMillon, who is a part owner of Polar Brrr Cyro.
“We stimulate the vascular system, and when that happens, it draws all the blood in from your extremities to the core of the body to protect your organs,” said McMilllon. "When that happens, the blood is hyper-oxygenated, and over the five hours that blood is distributed to your body, and that’s when the natural healing will begin."
Polar Brrr is the only facility of it’s kind in Southwest Michigan. The next closest Cryotherapy facilities are in Detroit and Chicago. Polar Brrr has all types of clients coming in since their opening on February 4, from professional athletes, such as Griffins Hockey players, to people with sleep disorders.
One of their clients, Alex Seaver, is very competitive in jujistu. He practices upwards of 20 hours a week with cardio and strength training. He sometimes even has two two-hour sessions a day
“I go to morning practice, and, say I am really feeling drained: I can’t do night practice,” said Seaver. "Then you come (to Polar Brrr), and I feel brand new. And that cold just wakes you up."
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to get the benefits. Your body can see results if you have a desk job and sit most of the day.
“My back, knees, and hips get really achy from sitting in a chair all day working, so I was like why not try it?” said Karen Grant.
FOX 17’s Cassandra Arsenault took a walk on the arctic side to test it out. She started out at Level 1, which gets to about 117 degrees below zero. You stand in the extreme cold for three minutes. You cover your hands and feet with wool socks and gloves to protect against frostbite.
There isn’t much science to back up the benefits of cryotherapy yet, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine. In 2015, there was a reported death, but officials say that person was in an enclosed cryotherapy apparatus without supervision after hours.
At Polar Brrr, there’s a person in the room with you for the whole three minutes. If you feel uncomfortable or can’t handle the cold, you can stop at any time.
If you have medical conditions like heart problems or hypertension, they require you talk to your doctor before trying Cryo.
Polar Brrr has introductory rates for beginners: $25 for your first class or $90 for your first three classes. It is normally $55 a session.