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Infrared Radiation Therapy in Physiotherapy

Infrared light is that introverted kid, who is everywhere, achieves incredible milestones, and continues to do marvelous things but we hardly notice them. From our television remotes to cameras, from telescopes to missile guidance systems, they are everywhere, doing wonders. Even when we are in pain, they wear their capes and can fly to our rescue.

Physiotherapists utilize infrared radiation therapy, a new treatment, to help patients manage their acute or chronic pain. Infrared light, having a longer wavelength has the ability to get below the skin layers and provide a much greater depth. It can penetrate the inner layers of the skin up to a depth of 2 to 7 centimeters. Infrared light is focused on areas where pain, soreness, or any inflammation is persistent in this treatment.

Infrared radiation therapy, also called light therapy is one of the radiations used in physiotherapy to manage acute or chronic joint and muscle pain in patients. This method of physiotherapy is natural and painless and can provide numerous health benefits, without causing damage to the skin. This therapy is widely used because it’s both effective and efficient.

Why is Infrared Radiation Therapy Widely Used in Muscles Treatment?

Unlike ultraviolet light which has damaging effects on the cells and tissues of the body, infrared light is safe. Infrared therapy technology in a way allows people to harness the benefits of sunlight, without getting exposed to harmful ultraviolet rays.

Infrared light gets absorbed by the photoreceptors in cells which starts a series of metabolic processes, triggering natural processes of the body at a cellular level.  It thus has the ability to reach the muscles, nerves, and even the bones. Nitric oxide is the estimated reason for its effectiveness. The arteries are relaxed by nitric oxide, preventing platelet collection in the vessels, fighting free radicals to reduce oxidative stress, and regulating blood pressure.

Infrared radiation in the device called infrared lamp is used in physiotherapy. This light is useful in reducing pain, decreasing inflammation, and speeding up wound care and tissue repair. Hence, it is amongst the most effective therapies used for healing inflammatory conditions.

What are the Health Benefits of Infrared Therapy?

Infrared light with high nitric oxide improves blood circulation. With improved oxygen and nutrients to injured tissues, blood doesn’t clot thus becomes an effective and safe remedy for pain and inflammation. 

After a muscle injury, infrared therapy improves the action of the mitochondria within cells, thus triggering the growth and repair of new muscle cells and tissues. Radiation used in physiotherapy to treat muscle has shown impressive results in detoxifying the kidneys, respiratory system, and liver too. 

Infrared therapy in physiotherapy is also used in the treatment of various types of pains and health conditions including arthritis, bursitis, back pain, blunt trauma, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ), tendonitis, surgical incisions and is even used for infants in the neonatal intensive care. Studies show that infrared therapy is a potentially viable cancer treatment too.

Types of Infrared Therapy

Energy penetration into a medium is dependent upon the intensity of the infrared source. Infrared radiation is produced in two forms luminous and non-luminous radiation. The shorter rays of the luminous generator become more effective in lesions of a chronic nature whereas, in acute inflammatory conditions, the non-luminous generator may be used because of the sedative effect of the rays which may be more effective in relieving pain.

Luminous IR Generator

The luminous generator is easy to use and produces infrared rays with visible light. The rays emitted from the Luminous generators are produced by one or more incandescent lamps. An incandescent lamp consists of a wire filament enclosed in a glass bulb. The filament is a coil of fine wire and is usually made of tungsten as this material tolerates related heating and cooling.

The passage of an electric current through the filament produces heat, infrared, and a few ultraviolet rays. The shorter, visible ultraviolet produced is absorbed by the glass of the lamp, and therefore is not emitted. The lamp at this time generally emits infrared radiation, with wavelengths of between 780nm -1500nm with peak intensity at 1000nm. Such a luminous generator is also called radiant heat and has penetration into dermis and subcutaneous tissue to a depth of 5-10mm.

Non-Luminous IR Generator

It is a machine designed such that it only produces infrared rays without any visible light. These generators consist of a coiled resistance wire which is looped around or fixed in a ceramic insulating material producing infrared electromagnetic rays.

Infrared radiation will be emitted and these generators are generally available with power levels of between 750-1000W. The infrared emitter is placed at the focal point of a parabolic reflector to reflect the radiation into an approximately uniform beam. The reflector has on its front a wire mesh. These generators produce radiation that peaks at a wavelength of around 4μm(4000nm) and penetrates the epidermis up to 2mm. Non-luminous lamps take longer than luminous lamps to reach a peak level of heat emission because of the thermal inertia of the considerable mass of metal and insulating material that has to be heated. The small lamps may take 5 minutes, but larger ones may take up to 15 minutes to reach maximum emission.

Precautions of infrared radiation therapy

To get the best results and be safe, the duration of such therapy should not be more than 10-15 minutes. Such dosage can be used multiple times as necessary.

Infrared radiation therapy in physiotherapy may not be suitable for pregnant women and patients who have undergone hip or knee replacement. Patients having metal implants in their bodies should also refrain from this treatment. Further, patients who are taking photosensitive medicines containing lithium, melatonin, and other antibiotics can be recommended by the doctor to avoid getting exposed to infrared radiation.

Preparations of Patient for Infrared Radiation therapy at Physiotattva

Patient care is customized as per their need at physiotattva. Experienced, trained, and certified physiotherapists assess, diagnose and prepare a treatment plan using advanced technology.

Basic preparations that are always made are that the patient is lying comfortably with the part of the body being exposed and the rest covered. Eyes and other sensitive organs are taken special and due care of. Metal objects like rings and safety pins are removed. Before starting the treatment, the skin sensation of the patient is also checked.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is infrared used in physiotherapy?

Infrared is used in physiotherapy for the following reasons- 

  • Pain relief 
  • Decreases muscle spasms
  • Increases sensory nerve conduction 
  • Increases endorphins production 

What are luminous and non-luminous generators?

Luminous generators are used to produce infrared rays with visible light. The rays emitted from the generator are produced by one or more incandescent lamps. On the other hand, the non-luminous generator produces infrared rays without any visible light. 

What are the benefits of infrared radiation?

There are several benefits of infrared radiation including detoxification, pain relief, reduction of muscle tension, weight loss, improved circulation, improved immune system, reduction of blood pressure, skin purification, and lowered side effects of diabetes. 

When do you use infrared therapy?

Infrared therapy is used to treat a wide range of conditions including arthritis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and diabetic neuropathy. The treatment mainly focuses on detoxification, pain relief, relaxation, circulation, and skin purification.

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