Infrared light therapy is a medical procedure that uses light to heal targeted cells in the body. A distinct advantage that this type of therapy has over other processes is that it is completely noninvasive and relatively painless. The healing effects of infrared light last for several hours after treatment, making it a preferred procedure for many patients.
The process works on the principles behind photostimulation. The idea is that cells in the human body react naturally to sunlight. The heat from light can stimulate the release of nitric oxide, which helps boost blood circulation to the affected area. As a result, the area being treated with phototherapy receives the oxygen and nutrients it needs to heal with increased efficiency.
Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to sunlight also can prove dangerous. The skin might burn, and the probability of developing skin cancer increases. Infrared light therapy eliminates these risks almost completely, specifically because of the use of infrared light. Infrared light contains most of the heat needed for photostimulation and possesses a wavelength longer than visible light. By isolating infrared light, therapists can take advantage of its healing properties without exposing their patients to other harmful wavelengths.
Light therapy using infrared wavelengths is often done by wrapping problem areas in special pads and exposing them to infrared light. The light most often comes from specialized light emitting diodes (LEDs), leading some clinics to refer to infrared light therapy as LED therapy. The light then penetrates the skin for up to about 1.2 inches (3 cm), acting on cells along the way.
After the cells are activated by the infrared light, the body's natural healing process is stimulated and subsequently sped up. The body experiences an increased production of collagen and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), as well as boosted deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) synthesis. This brings about several benefits, including pain relief and tissue repair. This proves to be especially useful for diabetics, who might need light therapy for wounds as a consequence of impaired healing.
Infrared light therapy also is used to treat acne. The increased production of ATP helps eliminate any bacteria in the pores. This includes the bacteria that cause pimples. Improved collagen production also helps heal any scars that might have formed.
Not all infrared light is safe for use, however. Short-wave infrared light can bypass the body's nerve receptors, causing patients to feel nothing. For this reason, there is no way that the patient can tell if the heat is actually causing more damage than good. When considering infrared light therapy, then, it is important for one to consult both a physician and the technician first.