When it comes to injury and injury rehabilitation, there is more than one way to skin a cat. By that I mean there is no one method or silver bullet that will “fix” pain or injury. It is very much person based with no one management option trumping the rest. Sports medicine and the health care industry is always on the look out for a way to get ahead. Trying to gain that 1% that might get an athlete an advantage or resolve an injury just that little bit faster. It can come from many different avenues such as diet, supplements, training load, equipment ect. A method that is gaining more traction lately is the use of modalities like sauna, spa and flotation.
Infrared Sauna (IRS) uses infrared light to heat the body itself unlike traditional sauna which heats the air surrounding the body. The infrared light can penetrate 3-4cm into fat and muscle tissue with a temperature of around 40 degrees Celsius. It is being used as a recovery mechanism after high intensity training sessions as way of improving recovery. It seems to most commonly used within combat sports such as Boxing and MMA. There are minimal studies currently that have looked specifically at certain injury recovery whilst using IRS. However, it has proven to be benefits in muscle recovery. Especially after activity in terms of muscle soreness and ability to improve performance. It has also shown to have a positive impact on heart health and those with Dementia, Kidney disease and Mental Health issues.
Flotation tanks (sensory deprivation tanks) are growing in popularity but have little medical research conducted on them in terms of injury. However, they have shown to greatly improve mental health. A study from 2014 trialed flotation tanks on a group of healthy individuals. They were given a questionnaire before and after using the tank for 7 weeks. It showed that their sleep patterns greatly improved, as well as a reduction in their peak pain and anxiety levels when compared to the control group. Even though there may not be any physiological impact on the healing of injuries, the sensory input of pain seems to be inhibited. As mental health plays a very large role on physical pain (especially chronic pain), it can be argued that flotation tanks could help those with pain and injury through purely relaxation means.
Managing pain and injury should be multi-factorial in terms of its approach. The use of alternative therapies such as Infrared Sauna and Flotation tanks can be part of that approach.
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