It's estimated that around a fifth of adults live with chronic pain. That means they have to endure ongoing pain that lasts for six months or longer, and doesn't necessarily have a direct or treatable cause. For example, pain can linger on even when an underlying injury has healed, often thanks to a misfiring nervous system.
Especially in cases where no direct cause can be found, pain relief is the only realistic treatment. Most often, medication is the go-to solution. Unfortunately, pain relief drugs have several major problems associated with them.
- Most drugs simply block pain signals without reducing inflammation or doing anything else to physically improve matters.
- When pain is masked, sufferers can move in ways which worsen a condition without noticing.
- Tolerance to pain relief drugs can build up quickly, meaning dosages need to increase to deliver the same effects.
- Increased tolerance can lead to long-term health problems, including dependency.
Because of these problems, many people seek alternative treatments for their chronic pain. Acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and more can all give great results. However, there's a relatively new treatment that's fast increasing in popularity: infrared light.
How does infrared light treatment work?
Depending on their wavelength, infrared beams penetrate up to 7cm below the skin's surface, delivering energy direct to muscles, tendons, and joints.
This results in a deep heat massage, reducing inflammation and boosting healing blood flow. Infrared treatment has also been likened to spending time in the sun, but without the health risks linked with UV rays.
The infrared rays can be delivered in two main ways. Small, portable lamps can be shone directly onto the treatment area for local relief. Alternatively, an infrared 'sauna' cabin can be used to give full-body treatment.
Scientific studies have shown mixed results for infrared pain relief, with some patients benefiting much more than others. But pain control is highly personal, and what works well for one may do nothing for another.
However, considering that supervised infrared treatment is completely safe, there's no health risk in seeing if it could work for your particular condition.
What conditions can infrared treat?
Infrared treatment has been reported to give good results for several major conditions:
Arthritis – Patients report lower pain levels, along with reduced swelling and stiffness.
Fibromyalgia – As it has no single known cause, fibromyalgia is very difficult to treat. However, when it's applied over several months, infrared is reported to help reduce symptoms for many sufferers.
Chronic back pain – Where no treatable cause has been identified, infrared can help up to three quarters of chronic back pain sufferers. There are also reports that it can ease the depression and anxiety that often goes with the condition.
Multiple Sclerosis – As well as reducing the pain that accompanies multiple sclerosis, some sufferers have found infrared improves physical strength and movement control.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Infrared can help reduce the swelling and pain of repetitive strain injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are also indications that infrared can have beneficial effects on diabetes neuropathy, chronic fatigue syndrome, and bursitis. However, the evidence for relief of these conditions isn't as strong.
Chronic pain is a complicated condition, and no single treatment fits all cases. On its own, infrared isn't going to work miracles. But as part of an all-round pain management plan, it could make a vital contribution to your strategy.
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