Infrared Therapy uses light waves to affect the muscles and tissues of a patient. The patient’s skin is exposed to waves of light at 50 to 1000 μm, in the non-visible spectrum, which produces a warming sensation in the skin.
Studies have shown that exposure to infrared light enhances the body’s circulation in the area where the light is focused. When more blood floods the area, it brings nutrients and immune system agents to the site, speeding up healing and boosting immune system functioning. The heating effect brings with it an endorphin rush and can cause spasming muscles to relax. This has many applications. When used in a clinical setting, Infrared Therapy can help patients recover from chronic pain, injuries or surgery, improve cardiovascular functioning, and aid in controlling systemic issues such as diabetes or kidney failure.
Aside from working on the visible tissues, Infrared Therapy also works directly on the cells themselves, particularly the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. Through a process called ‘photodissociation’, unwanted molecules are ousted from the mitochondria, allowing oxygen to bind in their place, thus boosting the mitochondria’s effectiveness. When the powerhouse of the cell is able to create more power, the body receives a surplus of energy.
The effects of Infrared Therapy are generally noticeable from the first treatment, and like any therapy should be repeated on a regular basis to provide constant relief.
There are several methods of applying Infrared Therapy. The most common are the lamp, for use either at home or in a clinic, and the sauna, most often found in the clinic setting. Unsurprisingly, lamps provide pin-point application, for smaller or more localized issues, whereas the sauna produces the same full-body detoxification and relaxation effects of a traditional steam or dry-heat sauna.
When dealing with any heating or warming therapy, one must always be alert for the dangers. Infrared Therapy can potentially burn the skin, particularly when applied for too lengthy a time. This can bring with it skin irritation. Even though the light is not visible, one should always protect one's eyes, and special goggles should be worn. Without these, the eyes can be damaged. As the therapy affects circulation, steps should be taken to avoid low blood pressure, and as Infrared creates a warming sensation, which causes sweating, dehydration can be an issue. Both of these latter effects can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water both before and after treatment.
Individuals suffering from skin damage, such as sunburns, dermatitis, or eczema, should not expose those areas of skin to Infrared light, as the therapy will not help, and will in fact make it worse. If the area of skin to be treated is insensitive to heat, it is best that it is not treated. And those with systemic symptoms such as a fever should not undergo treatment, as their body is already as warm as it can be without causing issues.
These contraindications aside, Infrared Therapy is a welcome adjunct to the medical profession and to Massage Therapy. It is a non-invasive and relaxing way to bring more healing to patients.