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Using infrared Light To Relieve Pain?

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ep, you read that right and no, I’m not on drugs. The kind of light I am talking about is far-infrared light (FIR). This is not some new-age hippy stuff either, this kind of relief is very well studied, really common in physical therapy offices, and you won’t be hard-pressed to find infrared saunas across the globe.

What is it?

FIR heat therapy is really easy to understand, you heat a specific object up to around 100-110 degrees, and that act of heating it up causes that object to produce infrared light. Typically, you will find either jade stone or carbon fiber FIR heating pads.

On an electromagnetic radiation scale, infrared light comes in just below the radiation levels of a tanning booth. Now, even though you see the word radiation in there, let me just state that FIR is safe from harmful radiation. As I said before, FIR is not a new technology, and it is used quite often in therapy offices and saunas.

Why does it work?

So, maybe you have paused reading this and looked up an FIR heating pad. Maybe you saw that the prices of them can be 2-5x the cost of a traditional heating pad that you buy at CVS. Maybe you are now wondering why the hell you would pay such money for a heating pad! Let me explain.

A typical heating pad that costs 20-40 dollars has wires that heat up and that’s it. You put that on your body and you start to feel warmer and so naturally you believe it is working. However, those wire heating pads only penetrate 1/8 of an inch into your body! That’s not even enough to to get through all the layers of your skin! So, if you have muscle or joint pain, and you want relief via heat, you want that heat to be able to penetrate deep into your body in order to get the blow to that area. If the heat on a wire heater on goes 1/8 of inch deep, all you are doing is warming your skin.

Now, an FIR heat pad emits infrared light. Those light waves have no problem at all pentrating through your skin. In fact, this study showed that FIR wavelengths emitted from FIR heating pads penetrated 1 1/2 inches deep into the body without creating excessive heat!

Why is the distance important? Well, the heat creates vasodilation meaning your veins will become wider allowing for more blood flow. The more blood flow you have to an area, the more oxygen and nutrients you will have deposited to that area. More oxygen and nutrients means faster healing and more relief. If a standard heating pad only heats your skin, the veins deep in your muscles will not dilate therefore they will not experience the increased levels of blood flow. Let me show you the difference.

Here is the depth a traditional wire-heated pad works:

The little black line represents 1/8 of an inch. Notice I have it set at skin level and it barely goes anywhere.

Here is the depth of a FIR heating pad:

This measures at 1 1/2 inches of penetration, easily going through my muscles and reaching my spine.

What to use it for?

Anything! Increased blood flow to an area is good for sore muscles, achy joints, or tight muscles! As I said earlier, FIR is used in physical therapy offices for patient treatment all the time.

How long to use it?

Most recommendations saying 20-30 minutes on a single area to really saturate it with blood flow. I haven’t seen any studies saying that longer than that is worse, but I have had mine on specific areas for up to an hour and felt fine!

How hot?

Whatever is comfortable for you! I set mine to 150 degrees and that feels great for me, my muscles feel much more relaxed after that.

It’s important to note that while you might set it to 150 degrees, the unit itself will not feel like 150 degrees. This is because it is emitting infrared heat at that temperature, not heating up the unit to that temperature. In fact, the unit that I have never goes above a tactile temperature of 110 degrees making it safe against skin burns.

What does Jordan have?

I’d like to point out that this is not an affiliate link, I’m simply promoting this brand because it has the best price point for the product you get.

I have one of these:

This one measures out to be about 16″ wide and about 23″ long so it will completely cover the back of an average-sized adult. Plus, it comes with a strap that will help hold the pad against your body.

Here it is on me:

It has great customizable features and it is super easy to adjust the temperature on it.

Final thoughts

Heat as a form of therapy has been around for centuries and the research on it for pain relief is rock solid.

If you are someone who experiences joint point or muscle pain from soreness or tightness, I would highly recommend getting an FIR heating pad. You may have to use it for a few days before you really start to feel it’s affects, but if it could provide you with relief from pain without medication, isn’t it worth a shot?

Jordan Tank, Personal Trainer, Columbus, Ohio

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