What is Infrared Therapy?
Infrared therapy uses the power of light in the treatment of damaged tissues, caused by various diseases where blood circulation is compromised, such as diabetes. Oftentimes, patients with diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy- a condition characterized by the disruption of normal nerve function because of damage and destruction. Infrared energy is conventionally known as a heat modality that is often being used in physical therapy. Infrared therapy provides relief from pain, stiffness, muscle spasm and inflammation.
Who is a Candidate for Infrared Therapy?
Patients who have peripheral neuropathy due to diabetes; those who had a stroke (cerebrovascular accident); suffering from acute pain; muscle spasm; and or who are suffering from poor blood circulation brought about by various diseases related to a decrease in blood flow to parts of the body are ideal candidates for infrared therapy.
How Does Infrared Therapy Work?
Infrared therapy uses a low-intensity infrared laser which emits light that passes through the skin going to the site of injury. Research has revealed that infrared lights, or ‘energy’ in this context, triggers the local release of a chemical gas called nitric oxide. The presence of nitric oxide within or near the site of injury causes blood vessels to gently expand or dilate to increase the blood flow in the area. Ultimately, the increase in blood flow helps to bring nutrients and oxygen to ailing tissues, and reduces pain and inflammation and speeds up the healing process.
Benefits of Infrared Therapy
Infrared therapy is proven to speed up the healing process in wounds and lesions brought about by trauma or diseases which cause a decrease in blood flow to the affected area. Infrared therapy also helps to control and to eliminate pain in people diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy.
In a study conducted to 2239 patients, with an average age of 73 years, diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, it was revealed that the use of infrared light therapy significantly reduced patient’s loss of sensation (sensory impairment) and decreased pain associated with this disease.
What are the Risks of Infrared Therapy?
The most common risk associated with infrared therapy is burning in the area where the infrared light is exposed. Although a low amount of infrared light is emitted during the therapy, heat is still present and could cause superficial burns to the patient. Caucasians using prolonged infrared therapy are more susceptible to developing skin cancer. Local skin irritation may also occur due to infrared therapy, which often results in wrinkled appearance of the skin.
What to Expect After Infrared Therapy?
Expected outcomes of infrared therapy depend on the goal and why this procedure is done. In patients suffering from diabetic peripheral neuropathy, it is expected that pain and inflammation caused by this disease will be lessened, if not totally removed. Because of the increased blood flow in a target area, people with diabetic foot wounds may expect a faster healing time.