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Understanding How Heat Can Heal the Body

November 14, 2017 by Kara Willingham

Humans have been using heat to warm and heal their bodies for, well, forever. Though methods have changed and we've gained knowledge, we have seemingly always known that warmth is good for our bodies.

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, research shows that upwards of 1.5 billion people around the world have or are currently experiencing chronic pain. Numbers like this mean that someone you know, friends, or family members may be suffering from body pain every day. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at how heat can heal the body.

Infrared as a Natural Solution for Pain Relief

Natural remedies for pain relief include willow bark, turmeric, cloves, acupuncture, and ice, but one of the most common and efficient natural pain relief remedies is the use of heat applied directly to the area. More specifically, infrared heat is one of the most effective, non-pharmaceutical options to provide relief fast. 

Those who partake in regular infrared treatments feel relief from injuries, fibromyalgia, arthritis, delayed-onset muscle soreness, peripheral arterial disease, ankylosing spondylitis (inflammatory arthritis distressing the spine/large joints) and more. Infrared heat can also assist with eliminating stiffness once inflammation has gone down, and this is especially useful for strains and sprains.

Soothing infrared rays have also been known to provide a reprieve from body pain by increasing blood flow. Dr. Aaron Flickstein, FIT Bodywrap’s Clinical Director, has seen excellent results when using infrared body wrap treatments on his patients. “Pain relief with infrared happens due to increased blood flow and infrared acting directly on irritated nerve endings,” he says, “Many patients notice the effects after about 20-30 minutes of exposure and some feel relief for around 48 hours after the sessions.”

You may be wondering; how does infrared provide these results? “Infrared heat promotes the rebuilding of injured tissue by positively affecting the fibroblasts (connective tissue cells necessary for repair), and it increases the growth of cells, DNA and protein synthesis necessary for tissue repair and regeneration,” says Flickstein. “Infrared is also useful for reducing soreness in nerve endings and muscle spasms by heating the muscle fibers resulting in natural pain relief.”

According to Dr. Fickstein’s research, tissues heated to 45 degrees C and then stretched exhibit a non-elastic residual elongation of about 0.5 to 0.9% that persists after the stretch is released. Extension of the tissue in the presence of heat would be especially valuable in working with ligaments, joint capsules, tendons, fasciae, and synovium that have become scarred, thickened, or contracted. 

Infrared sessions can imrove your bodies ability to stretch and release tightness.

Heating the body can be exceptionally positive in treating joint pain caused by arthritis. Prior experimentation has documented a 20% decrease in rheumatoid finger joint stiffness at 45 degrees C. Speculation has it that any stiffened joint and thickened connective tissues may respond similarly. To break it down, the deep heating effects of infrared therapy can increase blood flow, circulation, reduce inflammation and aid in healing.

We’ll sign off with a 2006 Canadian study on chronic low back pain. It is said that back pain is the most common cause of disability in North America, accounting for 64% of new consultations of the Rothbart Pain Management Clinic (RPMC) in North York, Ontario (where the study was done). The study split 40 participants into two groups, an infrared group, and a placebo group. Researchers discovered that the group exposed to infrared reported a 50% decline in their pain levels! You read that correctly, 50%!

Since we all have bodies, we’re all bound to experience some pain during our busy lives. Enjoying infrared sessions are a lovely way to provide some relief, and they can be an excellent service for those with fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic pain and even muscle soreness from strenuous workouts. In the case of a recent, or acute joint injury it may be recommended to avoid heat for the first 48 hours after until the hot and swollen symptoms subside. If you have joints that are chronically hot and swollen, these joints may respond poorly to vigorous heating of any kind. If you are unsure, you can check with your doctor.

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