Back Pain and Infrared Heat : Does It Help?

At some point in our lives, most of us will suffer back pain. For those unfortunate enough to be plagued by chronic back pain over a sustained period, it forms a debilitating presence which hampers our lives.

Treatments vary depending on the cause of the condition. Medicines, from the over-the-counter pain relief of ibuprofen through to prescriptions which directly attack the source of agony, are rarely a solution on their own.

Outside of medication, a key breakthrough has been the use of infrared and heat treatments. At their heart, both penetrate muscles and tissues for a restorative healing process. There are key differences between the two.


1.     What Is Heat Treatment?

Heat treatment in its basic form comes via heat pads. Known as radiant heat, this is a superficial and uncomplicated pain relief via heat pads available from any pharmacy. Core to its success is the impact of heat on the brain; it reduces the pain signals sent from nerve endings, providing much-needed respite.

Infrared takes the treatment a stage further. Replicating the impact of sunlight on the body, the rays penetrate deep into muscle groups relieving tensions, increasing blood flow to the damaged areas which improves the healing times. Tissues benefit similarly, with circulation and metabolism increasing in the targeted area.

While the technology has become more mobile in recent years – no longer reliant on cumbersome lamps in the home or clinical environment – the biggest obstacle proponents of infrared heat treatment had to overcome was skepticism.

2.     How Heat Treatment Helps to Relieve Back Pain

Frequent studies produce similar results to the one conducted by the Rothbart Pain Management Clinic in North York, Ontario. Their six-year study of randomized patients proved that the pain levels suffered dropped by more than half for those who used infrared treatment. Evidence such as this is a clear pathway to the treatment’s success.

Fears that the use of infrared heat treatments have been all but dispelled down the years, particularly with ear, nose and throat conditions using similar methods of pain relief and repair. The proviso always comes that physician instructions must be followed, as well as those from the equipment’s manufacturers.

The treatment replicates the benefits felt by the body when in direct sunlight. We have known for years how well we respond to a sunny climate and the beneficial effects across any number of conditions. Infrared simply repeats that in a targeted area to relieve back pain.

Some prefer treatments with more traditional roots. The acupressure mat, for example, is a popular adaptation of the bed of nails. Now we have plastic spikes rather than the fakir’s preferred metal equivalent. CBS News asked the question of how effective the treatment can be. The mats work by stimulating the release of hormones via pressure points, according to one tester, Winter Brill.

Within the report comes the staggering value of the pain relief market five years ago: $50bn. It’s an incredible sum and little wonder that skeptics continue to surface about any non-medicinal nonmedicinal solutions to treat musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain.

The infrared treatment works in a similar manner to the acupressure mat. Researchers found that body temperature increases stimulated circulation and forced the same messages of pain relief to the brain.

These are different to the use of back braces. Initially devised as a posture correction tool, supporters of this non-invasive tool for pain relief point to the longer-term benefits it provides.

Much of the problems with back pain stem from movement of the spine while suffering. A back brace works by holding the spine steady in a corset effect. Orthotic versions provide the stability the spine needs by restricting sharp or unexpected movements which are often a source of pain.

Personal preferences may direct the sufferer in one direction for treatment but with infrared proving to be as successful as other methods, the mobility the solution provides may give it an edge in the curative scenario.



¹ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Infrared therapy for chronic low back pain: A randomized, controlled trial

² CBS News, can modern day “bed of nails” help back pain?



About the Author

Annie Jones is the main person behind the BoostBodyFit. She started off a bit on the chubby side, but went through the transformation and now enjoys great health and looks great. She is a fan bodyweight training and healthy living. She found the BoostBodyFit to share her experience on Health, Fitness,  Sports Nutrition and everything else between.

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