How Can a Physical Therapist Use Infrared in Their Practice?

June 30, 2017 by Kara Willingham

Physical therapy or physiotherapy involves movements to remedy injuries, mobility challenges, function, and strength. A physical therapist works with patients to improve their ability to move and function in daily life. These healthcare professionals work closely with individuals to diagnose and create a plan for relieving pain and improving a patient’s quality of life. Many see a physical therapist for rehabilitation of a specific muscle or ailment. Though each patient is different, many have the same concern, pain. Everyone is different, and the type of treatment prescribed for their particular pain may be unique. A physical therapy session may incorporate exercises, manual therapy, manual manipulation, mechanical devices, education on body movements and structure, sound waves, electricity, radiation, and hot and cold therapy.

Here’s how infrared heat fits in.

Incorporating Infrared Heat Can Improve Physical Therapy Results

Deep investigation into the effect infrared has on pain relief indicates that combining infrared sessions with therapy sessions can aid in recovery.

During full body infrared immersion, soothing infrared heat penetrates the body to generate therapeutic benefits via amplified blood flow and tissue oxygenation. The quick increase of blood flow and tissue oxygenation can help encourage the generation of energy needed for healing. In 2005 publishing company, Karger released a study in which researchers theorized that regular use of infrared heat could decrease chronic pain. To prove their hypothesis, the 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.

A separate study conducted by Matsushita in 2008 found that chronic pain patients noticed nearly a 70% reduction in their pain levels after only one infrared session. Yes, one session. Just one session and the pain participants were experiencing declined significantly and remained low throughout the observation period.  

And the studies keep popping up!

Aetna, an American health care company referenced multiple studies online noting that a combination of physiotherapy and infrared therapy can improve the health of patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and chronic kidney disease. The study’s authors determined that the use of far infrared therapy may be connected to the amplified expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, a cellular signaling molecule that helps vascular tone, insulin secretion and is involved in neural development. The authors also noticed a likely increase in nitric oxide production, which plays a critical role in blood pressure and overall circulation. Nitric oxide also plays a part in immune system health, regulating blood pressure, reducing inflammation and more. This study shows the effectiveness of infrared heat for conditions that someone may be working through with a physical therapist. Due to the efficacy and ease of use, a physical therapist may immerse the patient in the infrared heat before or after their therapy session. Infrared sessions pre or post physiotherapy canrelieve pain, provide a passive cardiovascular workout and even assist with skin concerns and calorie burn.

A physical therapist can use infrared heat in a variety of ways.

Your physical therapist is in business to assist you with managing and lessening the pain to improve your mobility and range of motion. For most applications, it is recommended that patients use infrared therapy two to three times per week for one month or more. Combining infrared with physiotherapy sessions is a great way to relieve pain quickly and get you back to your active lifestyle!

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