Infra Red Heat and Wellness

Ever wondered why infrared treatments are so popular with physiotherapists, skincare, and other wellness professionals? Here’s a little background why.

Infrared heat was discovered in 1800 by astronomer Sir William Herschel who observed a type of invisible radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum lower in energy than red light, he couldn’t see it but it was there and it was significant.  He achieved this by passing sunlight through a glass prism, as sunlight passed through the prism, it was dispersed into a rainbow of colours called a spectrum. He noted that the highest temperature was ‘beyond red’ and caused by what he termed back then as “calorific” rays. We know this now as infrared.

Popularly known as “heat radiation”, infrared light from the Sun accounts for approximately 49% of the heating of Earth, with the rest being caused by the visible sunlight being emitted, most commonly known as ultra-violet. Herschel’s discovery and subsequent examination of different types of sunlight has basically shown two things, infrared radiation is good for us and UV is not.

The upshot of this being Infrared radiation’s ever-growing use in industrial, scientific, military, law enforcement, and medical applications on a wide-scale basis and rightly so, its application offers many benefits.

On the human health front Infrared light is absorbed by the upper skin layers and penetrates as thermal energy into the body via the blood vessels, improving the circulation of oxygen-rich blood and in turn promoting faster healing of deep tissues, reducing inflammation, relieving pain and is so safe that it is even used to treat infants in neonatal intensive care. It is also one of the reasons that infrared sauna’s and heat lamp treatments are so popular.

Sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, joint inflammation, tendonitis, bursitis and blood circulation issues all feel relief from the healing effects of infra red heat.

Because it is not convection-based infrared heating can even be used in a vacuum and it is this property that is also of value to our well being. When a space is heated using infrared heat the air and its particles are not moved but the radiation passes through it until hitting a solid object. That object, whether animate or inanimate absorbs the radiation and heats up. This is a huge advantage in closed spaces because pollutants such as spores, dust mites and viruses which need movement for maximum effect gain no movement at all. This reduces the transmission of infections as well as asthmatic and allergic reactions many fold.

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Another advantage of infrared is that heating systems that work by circulating warm air heat the air thus reducing the oxygen and the amount of humidity in the room. Infrared heat requires no oxygen from the room which reduces the need for humidifiers during the winter as well as not causing the congestion and dryness that hot air does. Too many of us suffer from the stuffiness caused by gas central heating and fan heaters leading to runny noses, discomfort, nasal scabbing, sore throats and disrupted sleep. Let’s be honest, we could all do without them, if comfort and wellness are high on our achievement list it’s time to go infrared.