Far Infra Red Therapy
The sixth in our series reviewing features of the new iMRS Prime is about the combined Far Infra Red and PEMF energy field, available through the Prime Hybrid mat.
What is Far Infrared?
NASA explains the electromagnetic spectrum (1) as a range of different types of radiation energy present in Nature. Far infrared is part of this spectrum, defined as 3–100 micrometers (μm) with a wavelength of between 15 micrometres and 1mm. It appears just above the frequencies for microwaves and below ‘visible’ red.
All objects in the universe, including human beings, produce some level of infrared radiation, which is divided into three types:
|Name||Wavelength||Photon Energy (THz)|
|Near infrared||0.7– 1.4 μm||215– 430|
|Mid infrared||1.4– 3.0 μm||100– 215|
|Far infrared||3.0– 100 μm||3– 100|
Within the spectrum for Far Infrared, there is a sub-set between 6 and 14 microns which is essential to the growth of all living things. This ‘biological window’ is the bandwidth targeted by the FIR layer inside the iMRS Prime Hybrid mat.
What is Far Infrared Therapy?
Far infrared (FIR) therapy has long been used in sports rehabilitation, physiotherapy and some areas of mainstream medicine while many spas and home users now have far infrared saunas. It has traditionally been used for treating inflammation, muscle soreness, joint pain, relaxation and general wellness.
However, more recently, we’ve seen evidence that FIR may have a much wider range of general health benefits, with improvements in blood circulation, wound and skin healing and the immune system. There has also been increasing interest in its combined application with pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) and other technologies.
Far infrared can be generated from a large range of devices:
Also known as cold laser or low-level laser therapy, photobiomodulation is especially useful for targeting local areas of the body. At Life Mat, we have almost 20 years experience of photobiomodulation, with various red, infra-red and other wavelengths, various intensities and different means of delivering frequencies. We use it routinely alongside PEMF.
Among the studies demonstrating its efficacy (2) are treatments for skin fibrosis, fungal infections, dental repairs, lung inflammation, brain injuries, athletic performance and muscle injuries.
2. Carbon Fibre Emitters (including the iMRS Prime Hybrid)
These are most commonly used in the panels within some FIR saunas. They’re also used in our hybrid PEMF mats, in the form of a thin layer of carbon fibre ribbon cables.
These state-of-the-art FIR emitters allow therapies to be applied at much lower temperatures and for longer periods compared to traditional ceramic systems, allowing deeper penetration below the skin and other therapeutic effects.
The iMRS Prime Hybrid mat achieves its benefits with just a gentle, pleasant warmth, peaking at around 45 degrees centigrade on the mat’s surface. Carbon fibre emitters like these use a range of around 3 to 15 μm and have a resonant absorption depth of 50 to 75mm (2-3 inches).
Assuming the body is well hydrated, there will be an efficient resonance-based transfer of this energy between tissues.
4. Ceramic FIR
One of the more traditional ways of emitting far infrared is using ceramic ‘tiles’ that are heated up adjacent to the user. While these have certain therapeutic effects and are still widely used in some circles such as sports rehabilitation, they do have their limitations and the wavelength of the infrared cannot be controlled.
We’ve seen a flood of these cheap mats on the market in recent years, most of them coming directly from China or from China via the USA. They work by heating up rough crystals (they’re not gemstone grade) such as amethyst and tourmaline which are thought to produce infrared radiation.
There is no suggestion that using particular types of crystal provides any additional benefits and some of the marketing claims, such as helping reverse or cure diabetes, are not backed up by the research.
Some of them claim to be hybrid FIR and PEMF mats. We’ve owned some of these mats ourselves, from the cheapest to the most expensive, and have these observations: 1) it’s not clear that they’re actually emitting a real PEMF field, 2) using an electric heater to heat up the crystals is not good in terms of avoiding EMF radiation, 3) they’re extremely heavy (as you’d expect from their rock content), 4) although they feel pleasantly warm, we didn’t see any improvement in Heart Rate Variability when using them, in fact HRV flatlined at the lowest possible level, which is not a good sign in terms of stress levels.
4. FIR Saunas
Until recently, saunas have led the way in the far infrared industry, making clear the sheer range of potential benefits from using FIR. Unlike traditional steam saunas, which are much more expensive to run and rely on heating the air inside them, FIR saunas use light waves to reach deeper layers of the body, without having to deploy intense heat (traditional saunas may need to reach 60 to 110 degress centigrade, compared with 40 to 60 degrees with FIR).
Some of the benefits observed with saunas of all kinds are better circulation, help with chronic fatigue, joint pain and sore muscles, tighter skin, relaxation and improved sleep.
The Biological Effects of Far Infrared
Previously, many of the benefits from FIR were attributed to its thermal effects but recent research has begun to uncover various non-thermal effects as well. At a cellular level, FIR may help to protect cell viability and improve function, although there is much to learn in this complex area.
FIR’s phyisiological effects have already been shown to include:
- Better blood circulation supports cardiovascular health and improves blood flow to the organs
- Better micro-circulation in the capillaries improves transport of oxygen and nutrients to accelerate cellular repairs and overall regeneration
- Better flow in the lymphatic system improves elimination of toxins
- Helps to relieve chronic pain, joint stiffness and arthritis and general inflammation
- Helps accelerate the recovery of muscles following exercise
- Helps to reduce oxidative stress
- Helps to balance digestive problems
- Helps to relieve stress and improve sleep
Some of the specific effects that have been explored in clinical research are as follows:
In one study investigating the neurodegenerative disease spinocerebellar ataxia (3), researchers found:
“FIR improved mitochondrial respiratory function, which was significantly compromised in ataxin-3-78Q and ataxin-3-26Q expressing cells. This was accompanied by decreased levels of mitochondrial fragmentation in FIR treated cells, as observed by fluorescence microscopy and protein expression analysis.”
Another study looked at the most effective wavelength to use on epithelial cells to produce beneficial effects (4):
“The biologically effective wavelength of FIR has long been a mystery although there are many studies investigating the biological effects of FIR. Using narrowband FIR sources and an IR bandpass filter, we found that the effective biologically effective wavelength of FIR is between 8 and 10 μm.”
The impact of FIR on cells may have a lot to do with water. As the human body is made up of 70% water, the way that FIR may heat these molecules might have a significant role to play. Many companies offering FIR devices point to an ability to change the resonance of water molecules so that they ‘move more freely between the cells’. However, very little research has been carried out in this area and these claims are often overstated.
There is no doubt that infrared radiation has subtle and potentially beneficial effects (5) at a cellular level. One study showed that: “IR pulsed radiation at 1860 nm or 790~850 nm stimulated action potentials in many different types of neural cells, such as sciatic cells, auditory nerves, and cardiomyocytes.”
There is still much that we don’t know and more research needs to be undertaken but more understanding of how far infrared works on a biological level can be gleaned from the studies that have been undertaken into particular health issues such as musculoskeletal problems and inflammation.
Back Pain and Musculo-skeletal Issues
With our more sedentary work and home lives, musculoskeletal issues are some of the most common health problems in modern society, especially neck and back pain.
One recent study found that the application of FIR and ultrasound therapies improved muscular elasticity (6):
“Far-infrared rays irradiated to the human body by resonance of far-infrared rays are absorbed into the skin, thereby raising the temperature of skin tissue and stimulating heat and nociceptive receptors to feel warmth and relieve pain.”
“Use of site-specific FIR therapy over a four-week period in the workplace was associated with significant clinical improvements in pain and quality of life for office workers with previously refractory low back pain.”
At the other end of the exercise spectrum is that FIR therapy is increasingly used in sports therapy following extreme exercise, reducing muscle fatigue (from depletion of muscle glycogen stores and build-up of lactic acid) and improving recovery times.
Arterial and Peripheral Blood Flow
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is common health problem and improving blood flow is critical. Far infrared therapy has been shown to enhance the dilation of the brachial artery in those with CVD, reduce diastolic blood pressure and lower coronary risk factors.
Other effects including upregulating nitric oxide (NO) production, which is essential in reducing arterial stiffness and improving blood oxygenation, and reducing inflammation in the endothelial cells. Found in the thin membrane between the inside of the heart and the blood vessels, endothelial cells play a vital role in controling the heartbeat and producing enzymes that prevent blood clotting.
At least one study has shown the benefits of FIR in reducing inflammation in endothelial cells (9).
Since both PEMF and Far Infra Red have been shown to help improve blood circulation, and since the iMRS Prime also offers the option of biofeedback via Heart Rate Variability (itself a key factor in regulating circulation), it’s reasonable to assume that in the iMRS Prime, these three modalities work synergistically to help boost cardiovascular health.
Inflammation is part of the body’s defence mechanism but has become a widespread problem in modern society, triggered by stress, gut dysbiosis and the resulting auto-immune issues. It can be a leading factor in many common diseases including diabetes and cancer.
One of the leading markers for systemic inflammation is the C-reactive serum protein. One study found that exposure to far-infrared saunas helped reduce this marker in more than 2,000 men who suffered from chronic inflammation (10).
When we produce too many free radicals and this causes an imbalance in the body, it causes what scientists call oxidative stress. This can play a big role in tissue damage and has been associated with major health conditions such as diabetes and cancer.
One study in 2013 (11) found that:
“The FIR radiation performed a significantly antioxidative effect by defending humans from oxidative damage of superoxide anions in blood. This may probably be achieved by increasing SOD (Super Oxide Dismutase) concentration and/or increasing heart rate variability.”
Wound Healing and Skin Treatments
Various studies have examined the effects of Far Infrared on wound healing and other factors involved with skin treatments.
This enhanced collagen production also makes FIR a great tool for skin issues, reducing the impact of wrinkles, healing scar tissue and burns, and assisting with skin breakouts, acne, and other problems.
Actresses, models and singers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Cindy Crawford and Lady Gaga have publically spoken about their regular use of FIR and its benefits for anti-aging and general health. According to Cindy Crawford: “I try to go into an infrared sauna for 20 minutes at least once a week. It’s super gentle, soothing, and therapeutic heat helps me relax and improves my sleep.”
Even better, the combined impact of hybrid FIR and PEMF therapy is seen in the fact that PEMF for wound healing has been common since the late 1970s and this clinical use has long been approved by the FDA.
At Life Mat, we also have experience with several other Energy Medicine technologies that can be extremely effective for skin problems, wrinkles and age spots. Combine these with FIR and PEMF and you have an incredible anti-ageing and skin protocol!
PEMF and FIR Therapy for Sleep
Several studies highlight the potential for both PEMF and FIR in promoting better sleep and anecdotal evidence seems to show the benefits from combining them.
A Short History of Far Infrared
Infrared was discovered by the British royal astronomer Sir William Herschel and presented in a paper to the Royal Society in 1800. In developing filters so that he could observe the sun, Herschel noticed that light had different colours. He then discovered that these colours had different temperatures which could sometimes be felt at a distance (which he called radiant heat). He then discovered that red, and even more so infrared, were the warmest wavelengths.
Despite the fact that we are unable to see infrared light and heat, we know that approximately 80 per cent of the rays from the sun fall into this category.
Heat therapy has been used therapeutically for thousands of years but it was only in the mid 1900’s that scientists started to really study its therapeutic properties. Infrared heaters were then developed in Japan and Germany, and arrived in the USA in the early 1980’s.
The Future of PEMF and FIR Therapy
Clearly, one of the most promising areas for FIR is in combination with other technologies such as PEMF. Although there isn’t much research on their combined effects, they operate through slightly different mechanisms and this appears to be synergistic when they are used together.
This interaction between the two energies is exactly what we see in Nature: almost all life on Earth absorbs a combination of energies in the form of Earth’s magnetic field and the infrared light energy from the Sun.
We all know how it feels to lie in the sun on a beach: that feeling of relaxation and wellness is generated by a lot more than just warmth. With FIR and PEMF, we can enjoy much of the same feeling, but without the harmful UV rays.
Treating chronic pain is a great example of an area where both therapies have considerable research evidence, but there are many others.
For example, both FIR and PEMF impact circulatory processes. By re-energising cell membranes, PEMF helps in the transport of oxygen and nutrients into cells and the removal of carbon dioxide and other wastes from them. Outside the cells, both PEMF and FIR have been shown to improve blood circulation through blood vessels and capillaries, and the elimination of wastes through the lymphatic system.
Both have long traditions in many therapy areas. Both use non-invasive, very low-risk, technologies in which calibration of wavelengths and intensities means they can be finely tuned to meet specific needs.
As far as we know, the iMRS Prime Hybrid system is the most sophisticated combination device of this kind and, given its innate processing power and signal generator, we expect much more in the future through even more advanced hybrid programs and applications.
- The Electromagnetic Spectrum, 2013
- Photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy Journal of Biophotonics, 2016
- Jui-Chih Chang et al Far-infrared radiation protects viability in a cell model of Spinocerebellar Ataxia by preventing polyQ protein accumulation and improving mitochondrial function Scientific Reports 6, 2016
- Detecting the limits of the biological effects of far-infrared radiation on epithelial cells Scientific Reports 9, 2019
- Shang-Ru Tsai and Michael R Hamblin Biological effects and medical applications of infrared radiation Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, 2017
- Analysis of muscular elasticity according to infrared and ultrasound therapy by sonoelastography Journal of Physical Therapy Sciences, 2018
- George D Gale et al Infrared therapy for chronic low back pain: A randomized, controlled trial Pain Research Management, 2006
- Frank Ervolino and Ronald Gazze Far infrared wavelength treatment for low back pain Work, 2015
- Chih-Ching Lin et al Far infrared therapy inhibits vascular endothelial inflammation via the induction of heme oxygenase-1 Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, 2008
- Sauna bathing and systemic inflammation European Journal of Epidemiology, 2018
- Antioxidative Effect of Far-Infrared Radiation in Human Public Health Frontiers, 2013