If you read my last article entitled 5 Fast Facts about FIR, you likely know more about far infrared therapy than most of the population! Far Infrared Rays (FIR) are invisible light rays from the sun that make us feel warm on sunny days BUT do not burn the skin. This light energy is absorbed deep into the tissue:
- activating water molecules in the blood
- increasing blood flow
- enhancing cell regeneration and soft tissue repair
Our bodies naturally contain FIR energy and this explains why we feel better when outside on sunny days and maybe why so many seniors feel better when wintering in Florida! Hyperthermic therapies such as FIR have been used for generations but because the biological effects are hard to validate, peer reviewed medical articles on this topic are scarce. The quantitative data is mainly collected through pain questionnaires completed by test and control groups before, during and after the study.
An interesting study published by the American Journal of Geriatrics involved elderly patients experiencing pain and disability from degenerative osteoarthritis of the knee. A fully randomized, partially double-blind trial resulted in a pain reduction of more than 50% within the group using the FIR therapy, whereas there was no significant improvement in the placebo group. Studies done with Magnetic Resonance Imaging also suggested a more rapid recovery from muscle fatigue.
Why Does FIR Help our Joints?
Researchers believe heated FIR therapies (such as FIR saunas and light panels) increase our body's thermoregulation warming our tissue and thus increasing circulation. While non-heating FIR particles (such as fabrics) cannot heat tissue to the same degree, many researchers believe the FIR in the fabric acts as a "perfect absorber" preventing the FIR our body naturally contains from being released. This warms the area producing similar effects to the heated FIR therapy.
Regardless of the application, FIR therapy is natural and has been shown to greatly improve joint health and reduce pain for those with inflammatory conditions such as:
- Raynaud's Disease
Arthritis is the most common cause of disability affecting approximately 50 million Americans, and will only increase with our large aging population. While there isn't a cure for many inflammatory conditions affecting the joints, such as arthritis, garments such as braces and supports can give some relief. FIR braces and supports go even one step further by increasing circulation helping reduce the inflammation and hence the pain.
How to determine which is best for you?
There are many brands, styles and fabrics of supports and braces for almost every body part and joint. It can be very confusing to determine which is best for your condition as it really depends on your symptoms. As a rule...
FIR Supports - provide compression and warmth to reduce pain and swelling. Supports are best for mild arthritis affecting all or part of the joint.
FIR Braces - reinforce the ligaments and help reduce the stress or weight going through the joint. Braces are great for injury recovery and to stabilize the joint while providing warmth and support.
If you suffer arthritis, your doctor has likely said maintaining a healthy weight and exercise are the best ways to minimize symptoms. A FIR support or brace can help you stay active while protecting your joints. For those dealing with severe chronic pain, it can't hurt to try!