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Infrared Light Therapy Technology
NIR light is often grouped under the broader umbrella of red light therapy, as well as low-level laser therapy or photobiomodulation. This is technically incorrect, as each of these techniques use different parts of the light spectrum. Red light uses rays with wavelengths ranging from 650nm-699nm and NIR ranges from 700nm-1000nm. To further complicate matters, the terms “near infrared” and “infrared” are often used interchangeably, but are not synonymous. Infrared refers to all energy with wavelengths between 700nm and 3000nm. Near infrared is a subset of this spectrum, with wavelengths from 700nm – 1000nm.
NIR therapy devices produce calibrated wavelengths of light in concentrations that provide therapeutic benefits at the cellular level without the dangers of excessive heat. To deliver the desired results, NIR therapy devices must produce a strong and focused beam of light that’s capable of penetrating into the site. The therapy light needs a direct path to the skin and enough energy to make it through the skin and muscle tissue. There are a number of technologies that have these properties. In the remainder of this chapter, we will look at two devices that are designed and priced for home use.
Incandescent Infrared Bulbs
Incandescent infrared bulbs have been in use for more than 50 years. They use the very same technology as the first lightbulb patented by Thomas Edison. Red and other visible light, near infrared energy, and heat are produced by electricity passing through a filament. In order to produce enough of these energies, the bulbs are higher wattage than typical household light bulbs, ranging from 150W to 300W. The bulbs are typically red in color, which reduces the amount of non-red visible light that passes through the bulb in order to keep it from being blindingly bright. The original use for incandescent infrared bulbs was as a heat source, and it is easy to see why. These bulbs get very hot, reaching nearly 600° Fahrenheit in some of the higher wattage versions.
Incandescent infrared bulbs are designed to fit into a standard (size E26/E27) lamp socket, which adds to their convenience and versatility. No special equipment is required to operate them; any lamp with a wattage rating that matches or exceeds that of the bulb will do.
Infrared LEDs are a more recent addition to the infrared light device market. While light-emitting diode (LED) technology has been in use for several decades, LED devices that emit red light and near infrared energy have been widely available to consumers for just over a decade. LED bulbs contain multiple diodes that are programmed to emit energy at specific wavelengths. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs produce almost no heat, remaining cool to the touch even after hours of use. They also do not produce “waste light,” which is visible light other than red light.
LED bulbs are designed with an E26/E27 screw that allows them to be used in a regular household lamp. Because their wattage is typically low (25W and under) users are able to operate them in lamps they already own. Additionally, LED bulbs are small in size, which allows for multiple bulbs to be used at once to concentrate energy on a specific area.
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