We’ve all experienced pain in our lives, but pain lingering in the body for an extended period is referred to as chronic and it affects millions of people worldwide. This long-lasting discomfort can range from minor to unbearable and it may come and go making it hard to determine what provides relief. Most people are familiar with the use of local thermal therapy, also known as heat therapy, which includes use of a hot-pack or wrap to lessen pain. What if we told you that immersing your entire body in radiant infrared heat could produce even greater pain relief results? It can, and we spoke with our Clinical Director, Dr. Aaron Flickstein to fill you in on what you need to know about how infrared can reduce chronic pain.
What Is Chronic Pain?
Pain in the body that lasts longer than six months is referred to as chronic and how the chronic pain came to be in the body varies. Some pain starts with trauma or an injury to the body while other types of chronic pain may be triggered by poor posture, health conditions and more. Any kind of long-lasting pain, especially that caused by a past injury or bodily damage can take an emotional toll on a person. Feelings of stress, depression, anger or fatigue can make the pain worse, and they can also have negative effects on someone’s quality of life.
How Do Infrared Body Wraps Reduce Chronic Pain?
When your body starts to “heat up” the temperature elevation can increase blood flow. This increased blood flow and soothing infrared heat can act directly on areas that are in a state of panic which is often the case when you’re in pain. Increased circulation, blood flow and oxygen levels in our tissue have an impact on the pain we feel. New blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the area of the body experiencing pain that can promote healing. “Infrared waves penetrate the body to create heat that results in immediate therapeutic benefits through increased blood flow and tissue oxygenation that provides more energy to heal,” commented Flickstein. “A 2008 study by Matsushita found that chronic pain patients experienced nearly a 70% reduction in pain levels after the first session of infrared therapy. Pain experience also decreased significantly and remained low throughout the observation period.”
A 2005 study hypothesized that repeated use of infrared heat could decrease chronic pain. Researchers took two groups of hospitalized patients and provided the first with cognitive behavioral therapy, rehabilitation, and exercise therapy. They provided the second group with the same therapies, however, they added one infrared session each day during the four-week study period. Two years after discharge, researchers measured the visual analog pain score, number of pain behavior, self-rating depression scale, and anger score of each patient. While both groups felt better after therapy, the second group (who was exposed to infrared heat) had a lower pain behavior number and anger score. The individuals who received infrared sessions were also able to return to work suggesting that repeated use of infrared therapy is an excellent method for reducing chronic pain.
“Infrared healing has become a leading-edge care for soft tissue injuries to promote both relief in chronic or intractable “permanent” cases, and accelerated healing in newer injuries,” says Dr. Flickstein. “Infrared heat can be very useful for inflammation, arthritis and fibromyalgia.” A 2009 article from Clinical Rheumatology points to a study in which 17 rheumatoid arthritis patients received eight infrared treatments over a four-week span. They noticed that their pain, stiffness and fatigue showed improvement, without adverse effects.
Fibromyalgia can be described as widespread pain with possible soreness in specific areas. In 2008, a study on the efficacy of infrared heat for this fibromyalgia was published in Internal Medicine Vol. 47. Researchers concluded that infrared is an effective treatment due to increased blood flow and the lessening of inflammation.
So, why does the body respond so well to repetitive infrared use? Because the human body (and all warm-blooded animals!) emits infrared heat as well. Chronic pain can be lessened by frequent infrared exposure as infrared heat has shown it can work in accelerating recovery from acute and chronic soft tissue injuries in ligaments, tendons, fascia and muscles.
According to WebMD, the symptoms of chronic pain include mild to more intense pain that does not subside, continuous shooting, burning or aching feelings as well as soreness, tightness or stiffness. Many notice the soothing and calming effects of infrared within about the first 30 minutes of a session, but immersing the body for an hour is most common. Infrared body wraps can assist with lessening chronic pain symptoms in many ways, try out a session today.
- Koga, Y et al. “The Effects of Repeated Thermal Therapy for Patients with Chronic Pain”. Karger.com, 2005.
- “What Is Chronic Pain and What Are the Symptoms?”. WebMD. 2017.
- Lehmann, Justus F. Therapeutic Heat and Cold. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1990. Print.
- Matsushita, Kakushi, Akinori Masuda, and Chuwa Tei. “Efficacy of Waon Therapy for Fibromyalgia”. Intern. Med. 47.16 (2008): 1473-1476. Web.