Wouldn’t it be nice to be prescribed a treatment that was not only effective, but relaxing as well? Many of the successes of our current treatments, surgeries and procedures are diminished by side effects, risks and costs. The infrared sauna (IFS) may actually offer a simple, soothing treatment for a variety of conditions.
IFS, also known as far infrared sauna, is a little different than what we're used to seeing in a spa or hotel. Instead of being extremely humid to the point of being uncomfortable, IFS use a very dry heat; the deep, penetrating heat of far infrared waves. The saunas are conducted in units for two, three or four people. Research suggests that IFS may be helpful for many conditions.
One of the most interesting areas of implementation of IFS could be congestive heart failure. In this condition, the heart is no longer able to pump blood effectively, often leading to a congestion of fluid in the lungs and lower extremities. It can lead to frequent hospital admissions, significantly decreased quality of life and more costs to our overburdened health care system. IFS has been used to help the heart’s squeezing power. Treatments with the sauna improved the physical signs of heart failure and had a significantly improvement in quality of life [Source: Miyata]. Another has shown similar effects with heart function and size, quality of life and the function of the inner lining of the blood vessels [Source: Mussivand]. IFS has even demonstrated the ability to decrease the rate of irregular heart rhythms, another important complication of heart failure [Source: Mussivand, Kihara]. IFS may help protect against heart disease by protecting the delicate, inner lining of the blood vessels from damage [Source: Masuda, Imamura]. This could be a wonderful application for the treatment of heart disease, particularly heart failure. Severe heart failure can limit exercise, and even simple tasks at home.
IFS may substantially impact several other chronic diseases. Research is showing early success with chronic fatigue syndrome and pain with fibromyalgia [Source: Masuda, Matsushita]. This is reassuring since these conditions have almost no formal treatment regimens. Other pain research shows benefit with IFS [Source: Masuda]. Even depression seemed to improve with regular IFS treatments [Source: Masuda]. The sauna treatments have shown to improve inflammatory conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome (a condition that involves dry mouth) and rheumatoid arthritis [Source: Tei, Oosterveld].
Sauna treatments can be done at a temperature tolerated by the patient. The research commonly quotes 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If this seems too hot initially, the treatment can be started at a lower temperature and increased during future visits. Some of the heart studies were done once a week, other studies were done daily for two weeks. Those interested in this treatment should contact a doctor, or even a health spa that uses this type of treatment, to discuss prices and arrangements. Those with a history of significant heart failure should discuss this treatment with their doctor first. The treatment is usually done for 15 minutes. In many studies the patient would then lie down on a bed outside of the sauna while covered in towels for an additional 15-30 minutes of rest. Some individuals do so well with treatment they will purchase a unit for their home. IFS is anecdotally thought to help detox the body. Those with a history of high, heavy metal burden or multiple chemical sensitivity may need to start with low temperatures and shorter treatment times.