People encounter infrared light every day. Although the human eye cannot see it, it can be felt as heat. Infrared light waves are often subdivided into three classes: near-, mid-, and far-infrared.
Far-infrared radiation has been investigated for its biological effects and possible health benefits.
An Overview of Far Infrared Light
All living organisms experience the effects of electromagnetic radiation. For centuries, thermal or infrared radiation has been used to remedy certain diseases. An example of this is the prevalent use of saunas17 to deliver radiation and treatment within a controlled environment.
Modern technology enables experts to develop better ways to deliver infrared radiation and develop more novel applications for it.
Within the infrared light radiation band, only far-infrared (FIR) can be purely transformed in the form of heat. The human body can absorb and emit FIR in the form of black body radiation12. The FIR application in the field of medicine requires a full understanding of the interactions of FIR with biological structures.
Although FIR cannot be seen by the naked eye, it can be felt as a gentle heat that can penetrate up to 4 cm beneath the skin. The FIR energy exerts rotational and vibrational motions to molecular bonds that resonate at the cellular level. This reportedly results in interesting biological effects.
Far Infrared Light Therapy
Photobiomodulation (PBM) or Far Infrared light therapy uses a certain wavelength of light to restore, repair, and protect the cellular tissue. Numerous studies have proven that FIR can affect bodily cells by increasing their mitochondrial function and producing more cellular energy.
The effect is concentrated where the light source is placed, so its benefits can be felt by the surrounding skin, blood vessels, nerves, lymph pathways, and hair follicles.
FIR Light Therapy was first used in the 1990s2 to help grow plants in space. Scientists found that the intense light from an LED lamp source helps promote the growth of plant cells.
Since then, the technique has been studied for its potential medical application. The aim is to determine if FIR light therapy can treat muscle atrophy and promote more effective wound healing.
Far infrared light therapy is usually divided into two types. The first one involves using a sauna that can irradiate the entire body at 60°C for 15 minutes, followed by a 30-minute interval to increase the body’s core temperature. The second type involves placing a localized light source made of ceramic plates directly on top of the skin surface to cause a steady increase in temperature.
Some use the technique for cosmetic purposes like soothing the skin and getting rid of wrinkles. However, there are some who use the therapy to address more serious diseases like psoriasis, diabetes, lymphedema, and other diseases.
It is also used in more innovative therapies to treat acute and chronic pain while others research the effects of preconditioning the cells with FIR to ensure their proliferation and survival.
Introduction Video About Light Therapy
How does Far Infrared Light Therapy Work?
In layman’s terms, infrared light is the heat that your skin feels when you are exposed to the sun. However, using Far infrared light therapy protects you from the harmful and damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This makes it safer and more effective than other light therapies.
The Far infrared light therapy uses a device like a lamp or a laser as the light source. Note that ‘light’ and ‘heat’ are two distinct entities. With FIR, the light waves heat up your body without requiring the heat from the surrounding air.
This means it can offer the same benefits that heat therapy does without using intense heat. For most people, this means less sweating but reaping the same health benefits.
The body is exposed directly to FIR lamps. It absorbs the light and triggers a series of biological and physiological reactions. The underlying mechanism of FIR light therapy remains unclear, but experimental and clinical studies have gathered first-hand evidence of its beneficial effects.
What are the Benefits of Far Infrared Light Therapy?
The benefits of Far infrared light therapy are like those of regular heat therapy.
FIR light therapy can help you relax, improve your sleep, improve your blood circulation, allow your muscle to recover faster, and provide immediate relief from muscle and joint pains.
Anecdotal stories claim that FIR can help detoxify the body, promote weight loss, and improve the overall complexion of your skin.
On the other hand, clinical studies suggest that FIR light therapy can provide relief for a far wider range of diseases. Findings show that it can have therapeutic effects on the cardiovascular17 and lymphatic11 systems and that it can protect the body against pathophysiological conditions16.
Some experts believe that the secret of its therapeutic potentials lie on the effects of FIR on nitric oxide – a gas that has been proven vital in keeping the body’s arteries healthy.
Nitric oxide signals the cells in the arteries to relax, thus, regulating the blood pressure and preventing the platelets from blocking the vessels. This, in turn, helps improve blood circulation, which delivers oxygen and essential nutrients to the cells and tissues.
Overall, research on Far Infrared Light Therapy is more than promising. However, more studies must be conducted to fully understand its therapeutic benefits and potential.
Who Can Use Far Infrared Light Therapy?
The procedure is highly recommended for people who are suffering from joint and muscle pain. It has been noted a long time ago that sending heat to the affected area can help alleviate pain and significantly reduce any inflammation or swelling. The immediate pain relief lifts the mood and improves the patient’s quality of life.
Although the other therapeutic effects and benefits are still being studied, the initial results already show great promise. It won’t be long before people with serious health conditions can be treated by this method.
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Far Infrared Light Therapy and Chronic Pain
Unlike heat therapy, FIR light therapy can penetrate the skin more deeply7. This means it is far more effective in reaching the cells, tissues, or joints that are causing bodily pain.
FIR can warm those areas thereby improving blood circulation. The increased oxygenation of the muscles helps it to relax and relieves it from pain. It can also battle the free radicals that are released by oxidative stress.
Patients who received the ozone therapy reported as much as 50% reduction in pain compared to those who received conventional treatment.
Far Infrared Light Therapy and Lymphedema
Lymphedema is characterized by the swelling of the extremities (i.e. arms and legs) due to the accumulation of excess lymph fluid, which are collected by the tissues. The condition is commonly a side effect of cancer treatment. Unfortunately, the condition usually cannot be reversed as the tissue becomes permanently damaged by the blockage.
According to laboratory analyses11, there are four major components in lymphedema: fat, lymph fluid, protein, and hyaluronan (fluid found in the joints that acts as a lubricant and shock absorber). Apparently, using FIR light therapy can improve the microcirculation not only of the blood but also of the lymph fluid.
Results show that there is a significant decrease in limb swelling among cancer patients who are treated with FIR light therapy. Further examination shows that the therapy helps decrease the deposition of the four main components on the tissue, thus, reducing the swelling.
This means that FIR light therapy can be used as an adjunctive to traditional lymphedema surgical procedures.
The therapeutic and health potentials of FIR light therapy are wide and varied. Even though more research, laboratory analyses, experiments, and clinical trials are needed to prove its efficacy and therapeutic benefits, the initial results are more than promising, making the future of FIR light therapy so exciting.
For now, it is safe to say that FIR light therapy is highly recommended for people suffering from chronic or acute pain and from an inflammation of the joints and muscles.
Those involved in ongoing clinical studies can attest to its safety. The fact that it is minimally invasive, natural, and drug-free makes FIR light therapy an attractive alternative to orthodox medical procedures.
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