Christopher Mantis, a basketball player for Lowell High School, grew 14 inches in a year and was in constant pain.
His family ended up taking him for cryotherapy treatment, a modern spin on the old-fashioned ice bath that puts people in a chamber where they're exposed to a brief dose of subzero temperature to numb pain and tame inflammation.
After being unable to find any cryotherapy in Northwest Indiana at the time, Nancy Evans decided to launch a cold therapy studio of her own. She and business partner Michelle Keelan opened NWI Cryotherapy & Fitness inside Abstract BodyWorks at 2204 U.S. 41 in Schererville.
"He hurt really bad all the time," Evans said. "He is the reason why I opened this business."
Clients enter an enclosed cryotherapy chamber in which they are blasted with subzero temperatures as low as minus 230 degrees for one and a half to up to three minutes.
The whole-body cold therapy treatment is meant to treat rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, inflammation, eczema, acne, anxiety and depression. Touted benefits include faster muscle recovery, increased metabolic rate, improved circulation, and reduced cellulite.
"It tightens and firms skin. It helps with migraine recovery," Evans said.
"For the athlete, it allows the body to repair itself. We wanted to bring it here to Northwest Indiana and make it affordable."
Clients include athletes but also people who suffer from lupus, autoimmune inflammation, and other conditions, or who just want to take a holistic approach to feeling better, Evans said. High school volleyball teams will even book the studio for parties where they bring snacks and Gatorade while taking turns undergoing the treatment.
"It's the equivalent of a 30-minute ice bath and a lot less uncomfortable," Evans said.
"You stay dry. You can listen to music while doing it and dance if you like. Then you get dressed and warm up very quickly."
Some clients also opt to recover from the session by wearing Normatec Compression Boots, which use compressed air to apply pressure to legs to create a massage-like effect that reduces soreness and releases tension.
Several cryotherapy facilities flash-freeze clients in Chicago, but NWI Cryotherapy & Fitness is the first studio in Northwest Indiana dedicated solely to it.
Float 60 flotation and sensory deprivation studio at 322 Indianapolis Blvd. also offers cold therapy in a cryotherapy chamber.
"It's an all-natural pain reliever," Evans said. "Some people love the way it makes them feel."
NWI Cryotherapy & Fitness uses a Cryo Innovations chamber, the same brand that was featured on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" last fall.
"A lot of people are super-curious to see what the hype is about and what the benefits are," she said. "People have watched the 'Ellen' show or seen the pictures with the blue nitrogen coming out of the chamber."
Evans frequently posts videos on social media to promote the business and educate the public about the potential benefits.
"It was invented in China 15 years ago and has since come to the United States," he said.
"It's gotten huge in California and is just starting to take off in the Midwest. I'm a walking, breathing billboard of the benefits. I can feel the difference and do it a couple of times a week."
Evans and Keelan hope eventually to open their own storefront along Indianapolis Boulevard and get an isolated cryotherapy wand they could use to treat sports injuries such as ankle sprains.
The service costs $30 for the first time, then $45 per session. It's $25 for students, police, military, firemen, nurses, and teachers.
NWI Cryotherapy & Fitness is open from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays; 1:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 1:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 4 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays; and by appointment.
For more information, call 219-267-1522 or visit www.nwicryotherapyfitness.com.